Would you believe me if I said the universe wasn't out to get you?
This is a sequel to my earlier post about not waiting for the good times.
There are many days when the real world feels like it's engaged in this quiet conspiracy to keep me from doing anything. It guilts me into doing busywork, or it gut-punches me with reminders that I have unfinished business, or it wastes my time with tiresome and thankless chores.
Wait, stop — you see what I just did there? I just anthropomorphized all this. I wrote all that as if all those problems and obstacles were people, or sentient things, and that it was some duty of theirs to make my life miserable and unproductive.
You'll never get anything done that way. Take it from an expert.
This one may be a twisty-turny kind of discussion, but stick with me. (You know how we go to the most interesting places. We don't always come back again, but we sure know how to voyage.)
Dōgen, a key figure in Zen Buddhism, once offered up a piece of advice about zazen practice: "We establish practice just in our delusion." Meaning, we don't sit around and wait for Good Times or Clear Mind to come along before engaging in practice; we just practice and let everything else sort itself out around that.
On Robert Fripp's three divisions of creativity. (And how I fit in one of them.)
Robert Fripp, a Brian Eno collaborator and a musical force in his own right, talked once about three "divisions" of creative work that someone can fall into:
.... The third division is research and development, interesting ideas and civilized lifestyle, but you won’t earn a living. Second division will earn you a living if you graft and you can get to be professionally respectable, but you won’t change the world. First division is an entirely different bag of bananas: at worst it’s merely ‘prime market penetration’ and success as mass culture; at best it means the top players, cream of new ideas, and the apex of popular culture. It also involves the commitment to what EG (Fripp’s management company) call the ’24-hour-a-day-man’: total commitment of belief, energy, lifestyle, and time. You put yourself on the line every time you play: you expose yourself to the ignominy of being considered deific by those who love you, being sliced apart by those who don’t: you risk losing yourself in your own press hand-outs and favorable reviews, and abandoning yourself with the bad reviews, without becoming cynical either. You’re on a tight rope: either way you have to jump and if you fall you lose your health, sanity, and occasionally your soul. But you just might fly away. So there’s your choice.
Should I pat myself on the back for coming to many of the same conclusions on my own, albeit decades after Fripp did? (And without having ever run into his words until now?)
Ten things from my shelf I'd take into isolation, 2017 edition.
Here is, organized in no particular order, the 2017 edition of my ten desert island fiction selections:
"I cannot serve like a waiter, because that's not what this job is about."
"You think and talk all the time about the artist ... What of the people, the working class, whom he should serve? I believe in the greatest potentiality of their talent and understanding. But I cannot serve like a waiter." (From John Berger's novel A Painter Of Our Time)
A number of mostly laudatory pieces have emerged in the wake of John Berger's death, the linked article being one of them. I picked up Ways Of Seeing after reading Berger's obit, and while its explicitly political methodology for interpreting art has become pretty standard fare, the way Berger and his colleagues expressed it then had a freshness and directness to it that still stands, and that is far more palatable than the incomprehensible jargon salads that have been dished up in its wake since.
The quote above, from one of Berger's novels (another to-do item for me, I guess), brought to mind a whole galaxy of thoughts. Some were inspired by Berger's socialist-with-a-small-s leanings where he found working hand in hand with others at least as rewarding as art; some were ideas that had been floating about in my head for some time before the above quote pulled it together. Here they are; be patient as it may take a bit for me to connect the dots.