Monday, January 31, 2011

Meme Day Four

Day One: Ten things you want to say to
ten different people right now.

(Day Two: Nine things about yourself.
Day Three: Eight ways to win your heart.
Day Four: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.

Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.
Day Six: Five people who mean a lot (in no order whatsoever)
Day Seven: Four turn-offs.
Day Eight: Three turn-ons.
Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.
Day Ten: One confession.)

1) Our culture here in the US -- and by extension, much of world culture -- has totally failed to understand the importance of the arts, and as a result it has failed the arts, the arts are failing the culture, and we're all going into the toilet together. By making art such a prohibitively expensive pursuit in terms of the costs to one's life, we've made it so that virtually every artist to present their works to the public does so with a vicious load of resentment, misery, and depression.

Folks, read a little bit on propaganda, and how our environment affects the function of our minds. We give our artists miserable lives, and they give us art that is either a desperate and facile attempt at denying reality, or a disturbingly convincing argument that misery is the essential mark of the authentic.

I'm trying hard to avoid falling into this trap. I want to create art that acts as a tool for life, and in order to do so I need to be able to view my life honestly and positively. In order to be the kind of artist I think the world needs, I have to become a better person. If you think I'm going to the trouble of getting my shit together out of self-interest, you really don't know me.

2) I still haven't gotten over my trip to the MOMA when I was coming down with the swine flu last fall. Both realizing on a gut level that you can't judge art based on reproductions, and understanding that part of the reason for that is the presence of the display space.

Usually I find myself crushed by the institutional nature of museums -- as a member of the working class, I cannot see all that polished marble without thinking about polishing it, and thinking about the paychecks, which leads to the infrastructure, which leads to the question -- is this how our culture should treat the arts?

The religious experiencing of another's art in a sacred space is powerful. I'd rather see funding in school arts programs.

The tendency toward specialization in our culture has taken away our personal investment in the arts. More, by removing that element of familiarity with the process of creation, we have been denied greater levels of appreciation.

So I say hurray for YouTube and Etsy! All hail the return of the Sunday painter and the porch band!

3. I'm realizing that while I tend not to be very demanding of those around me (demanding and needy are very different, thank you), I'm actually very controlling in a way -- I control through withdrawal and denial. I've done this so as to limit my world to what's manageable.

I recently read a definition of success as being the ability to live outside the company of fools. This, unconsciously, has been one of my main goals in life. The world is conveniently divided into those on the inside and those on the outside.

But as I'm expanding my world, I'm finding that I don't really have the option of only associating with people I'd let onto the lifeboat, if you get me. I need to find ways of dealing with people I do not trust, or do not fully respect. And they are going to have to leave those people willing to do business with me in the future. This is going to be very difficult for me, but it's either that or retreat to my room for the rest of my life. Sometimes this grownup stuff is tricky.

4. Complex feedback systems in life feel particularly unconquerable -- I can't sleep because I didn't eat because I didn't sleep last night, for instance.

But these systems are subject to manipulation from more angles than simpler problems. In the above, the eating could be messed with, just a slice of toast, some sleep-aids could be considered, and hey! How about a little exercise? It's funny how often a complex problem can collapse completely if you can find a vulnerable point of access.

5. I have no means of testing this, and shy of a ridiculous fossil find it will never be verifiable. But I bet you anything Tyrannosaurus rex used its tiny-but-powerful arms for nest-building. I'm sorry, they were some mighty little guns but you ain't holding no Edmontosaur with an arm like that.

6. Humanity is fucked for one very simple reason. Power is more attractive to scumbuckets than decent human beings. It's a simple sentence, but I can spend days reflecting on the implications.

7. I have been contemplating a return to the practice of magic. Yes, I'm still a materialist, still reject the idea of supernatural forces. It's just that science has done so much to reinforce many of the basic modes of thought I've picked up over my years of creepy study.

The logo on a can of Coke makes the soda taste better. They can take someone into a lab, wire them up, and measure the difference. So try and tell me that glyphs, logos, veves, runes, and sigils are nonsense. Then tell it to the Coca-Cola people. Austin Osmond Spare smirks from the grave.

Or to use another example, the self is an illusion. We rely on others to do big chunks of thinking for us, our moods and behaviors are affected by everything around us, color, music, everything, our decisions are made unconsciously and then rationalized in the cortex, and so on, and so on. We think of ourselves as solid little units but we're clouds, we're tendencies.

And so on. And so forth. While the explanations for the way magic works are always nonsensical, the acceptance of the malleability of subjective reality is the real heart of things. And that has been verified over and over again.

Many of my activities are modeled on spells or rituals, and have results beyond their overt intent. The novel is not about the novel; it is about transforming my life, just as an example. And it works. If you were to simply look at me before and after I started writing it, you could tell that I'm healthier and happier now just from my appearance. Guided intuitive responses to complex situations are frequently more effective than consciously rationalized and planned assaults.

That is the secret of magic; mutual manipulation of the internal and external worlds. I'm not interested in the spectacular visions and wonders that first sent me out into the world of the occult, but what I learned there turns out to have included any number of valuable thought-tools. Now that I've begun finding materialist rationalizations for much of magic, I'm much more comfortable using it.

And there we go. Another contradiction, and a lovely one indeed. A materialist wizard. Hoo-boy, that's a good one.


ada said...

Back when I was college student in 1974, I had to be an experimental subject. I am proud to have skewed the results of a cola can logo Psych experiment. The logo on the can didn't change the taste of the cola for me because I like to drink Dr. Pepper.

I'd like to think this says something significant about my role in the universe.

Sean Craven said...

I find Dr. Pepper to be much more palatable than colas. My own preference in brown sodas tends toward the root beer/birch beer/sarsaparilla end of the spectrum.

And I think I speak for all of us when I thank you for skewing the results. Somebody has to do it.