I Am (Not) An Entertainer

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018-03-26 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

Two quotes, two viewpoints:

I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not a Zen Buddhist, I am not advocating Zen Buddhism, I am not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell. I'm an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense, that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart, he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn’t want to convert you to anything. He doesn’t want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart's music as opposed to, say, Beethoven's. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or a violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view that I enjoy.

-- Alan Watts

There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing... I am a recording instrument... I do not presume to impose “story” “plot” “continuity”... Insofar as I succeed in Direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function... I am not an entertainer.

-- William S. Burroughs

Emphases mine. I like chockablocking these two quotes together despite how they ultimately address different things and to different ends. They also represent the two sides of a dichotomy I find myself in more often than not.

Oftentimes, the only way to get many people to pay attention to what you're doing is to be an entertainer, to be entertaining, to provide entertainment. (See how this breaks down into what you are, what you do, what you provide? They're not the same.) Few people will gravitate towards what you have to say simply because you think it's interesting; you have to find a way to meet them at least partly on their turf. People didn't flock to Black Panther because they were pitched a story about the difficulties of wielding and maintaining power; they came for the superhero action and stayed for the Shakespearean tragedy.

So at first, perhaps, you have to be an entertainer. But you don't have to always be one. You get them in the door first, and then you figure out how to lead them to the parts of the house you really want them to see from there.

I don't have any hard-and-fast suggestions on how to accomplish this. What I am saying is that you do not have to treat the question "entertainer?" as a binary. You don't have to be one or the other exclusively; there seems little advantage in adhering all-or-nothing to either identity.

Tags: entertainment