Posts Tagged ‘faith’

From the Editor’s Perch…

May 12, 2014

Identical  Businessmen11

“You’re the Devil”

 

My son asked me if I planned to continue participating in live theater after we moved to Ohio.  And I said that I wasn’t sure.  But that I’d probably “continue writing my serial fiction, because I enjoy making up stuff.”

And he said, “What’s the point of writing stuff, if people don’t read it?”

This gave me pause.  “You’re the Devil,” I replied.

 

What is the role of failure?  Success seems all important.  People kill themselves for lack of success.  It’s the all too common reason for suicide.  Why is success so important!  Why does it badger us so?  Failure seems a particularly human affliction.  It is hard to imagine a squirrel hanging itself, because it feels like a ‘loser’ – or a bird, or an ant, or a worm for that matter doing themselves in.  Lemmings run off of cliff sides.  But does an actual feeling of despair initially sweep across their community beforehand, so that they lose all bearings?

And if success is so important, where does that leave mediocrity?

Very few of us are successful.  Fewer still are wildly successful.  And even the wildly successful often remain ambitious – or even moreso.  And history has shown us (in quite lurid detail) that ambition is insatiable, and probably makes us – even more suicidal!

Yet statistically, the vast majority of us must be mediocre.  There is no logical way around this conundrum.  So what is the role of failure?

 

More than anything, we tend to react to failure as if it were the Devil’s pronged fork.  We distance ourselves from the pointy end as much as possible!  “I’m not a failure.  I’m successfully earning a living.”  “I’m on my way to success.”  “I am learning the ropes.”  “I am supporting my family of five, all of whom are way above normal.”  “I am helping the less fortunate.”  “I’m in an internship! J” “I could be more successful, if that’s what I really wanted.”  “No one is a failure who has friends.” “I feel I’m already a success.”  Or, perhaps the most desperate, “I’m a good person!”

Sorry.  You are nearly all ‘losers’.  You are not ‘dying with all the toys’.  And you are not  ‘the winner’.  The good news is that this is only sounds harsh if you think it does.  Otherwise, it’s a source of wry humor… which, (to my way of thinking), is God smiling.

 

But where does this leave the artistically inclined?  Most artists will become, like most others, mediocre.  Even most successful artists earn a living with difficulty.  Artists must push an enormous burden to raise a family.  And, their activities are more often than not, self-centered.  It is very hard for an artist to distance him/herself from the prongs of failure.

So, to get back to the issue raised by my son, ““What’s the point of writing stuff, if people don’t read it?”

Well, you know, (my son), the cup is always half full.  Very few of the solutions, and most of the problems of my artistic life have come from the people who have ‘read it’.  An audience can be a burden – even a hex.  If you don’t believe this, just attend any artistic ‘talk back’.  There is usually a moderator present to protect the creative type – both from the ‘haters’ and the ‘lovers’.  Once you have raised an audience, there are packs of hungry egos out there to both want it / and to demean it.

As for money…  Once people pay for something, there is this feeling that they own it.  And people pay an artist, because they want more of the same thing.  But, if you’re not paid a cent, no one owns you.  And no one tells you what to do.

 

But, even acknowledging all of this, if you’re mediocre, people might ask, what is the point of producing more work?  That is, if your art accomplishes nothing, what’s the point in making it?

In responding to this, I think back on a Sunday morning brunch my wife and I enjoyed years ago in a Portland Café.  It was upscale and sunny.  And we were visiting with my wife’s Uncle, a retired architect.  And somehow the conversation turned to religion and he suggested that wasn’t going to church a waste of time?  He pointed out that couldn’t the time be much better spent in doing some social work that would actually help someone?  His eyes showed concern.

‘And that’s what we’re doing now?’  I laughed to myself, as I enjoyed the fresh coffee.

 

“What do the people who aren’t attending Church do with their Sunday mornings?”  I might have asked, sharing his concern.  “Do they consume a big breakfast?  Do they sleep in?  Do they visit friends?  Do they go duck hunting and blast a couple birds?  Or maybe snag a fish and smack them on the head?  Do they watch the pregame festivities on TV?  Maybe work in the yard, or catch up on some home repairs?  Or maybe they read the New York Times?  Or maybe they are still up drinking beers?”

 

But the larger – more serious – point my wife’s Uncle was dancing around was “what in the world does going to Church on Sunday morning actually accomplish?  How does this make us more successful?  How does this make other people’s lives more rich and meaningful?  Does God listen?  Will it change anything even if He does?  Isn’t it possible that this whole ‘God’ thing is just one big shame and that they are all just wasting their Sunday mornings over there blowing smoke?

 

People without faith can’t understand that the foundation of faith is doubt.  Attacking the faithful only makes them stronger.  People like my wife’s Uncle are actually the shoulders that the religious stand on.  (Look at me.  Here I am!)

 

Because doing things to no purpose is actually a spiritual activity.  And the Devil just hates this sort of thing.

Photo by Carl Nelson

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From the Editor’s Perch…

August 17, 2013

The Pyramid of Rational Thought & How It Leads to Extinction

 

My rational, well-informed, well-educated, scientifically minded, community minded, liberal leaning friends who apparently care more about people that I do, believe that the world would be a better place and our lives would be happier if run on a more ‘rational’ and ‘enlightened’ basis.

My rational friends bemoan the fact that people act ‘crazy’.  And my liberal friends are trying every method of persuasion, from ridicule to downright contempt and hatred, to ‘reason’ individuals out of their craziness, be it religion, politics, astrology, alchemy, naturopathy, or whatever asinine thing we might think of next, like enjoying a Big Mac.  But study this diagram:

The Pyramid of Rational Thought

The Pyramid of Rational Thought

The facts of these matters seem to say otherwise.  Study this Pyramid of Life (above).

We see that the greater the intelligence of the species, the smaller its population.  This is true for every species you might say, except for humans.  Humans seem to be the exception, multiplying at a crazy pace, and ever threatening the planet’s carrying capacity.

How do we do this?

My rational friends would say that of course, that we aren’t doing this; that we are, in fact, headed for extinction, or a grand apocalypse.  And their rational explanations end in a doomsday analysis, from planetary depletion of resources, to fouling of the ecosystem, to global warming… and on and on.  And that it’s crazy and irrational to think otherwise.

However, a rational person would have to note that these folks have been making these doomsday predictions for quite some time.  Malthus, the great vertebra of the doomsday scenario, published his Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, and rational thinkers have been predicting a Malthusian catastrophe ever since.  In my youthful years it was Paul Ehrlich who took up the banner.  He’s pretty passé currently and there are lots more youthful Cassandras out there now.  You won’t have any trouble locating them.

These people are always finding meaning in nature, and well they should.  Nature is very rational.  Everything out there is running around for a good reason.  And the more intelligent the animals have become, the more they begin running about for very, very good reasons… never wasting their resources.  Until, if you extend the side of the pyramid upwards – there is no one left… and for some very, good reason.  J

My own thinking is that my rational friends’ thinking, is a good recipe for extinction. Study the pyramid.

I contend that we are crazy.  As a species we are highly irrational.  And that it is the only thing saving us from extinction.  It is our craziness, as a species, which allows us to produce the unforeseeable – and not our reason.

At one time, imagining the earth as round was thought of as crazy.  Sailing off the edge of the world was surely a crazy undertaking.  Baboons don’t do it.  Why go to the moon?  Dogs don’t do it.  Why fly?  Why look into a microscope?  You ever see a chicken wasting its time doing that?  Why count the stars?   Why put bananas on your peanut butter sandwich?  Why not kill people and take what they have?  Why waste your time worshipping?  Why read?  It is our craziness which has expanded the carrying capacity or our predicament and allowed us to flourish to this unprecedented state.

We’re all crazy.  (And especially all these informed, rational people.)  Respect this.  That’s how we stay alive.

Nuf’ said.

Diagram by Carl Nelson – no rights reserved 🙂

From the Editor’s Perch

September 14, 2010

Diagram: 1a

How to Be a Genius!

Creative individuals (e.g. artists) are often pressed by the need to be a GENIUS.  To do this, they need a GENIUS idea.  But, as you can see from the Diagram (1a) above, for most of us, it is simply too big a leap from our paltry notion to a truly genius idea!  What to do?

Baby steps.  We simply start with the best idea we can come up with.  Some of these ideas may lead nowhere (points K, B, H, J, E).  But some of these ideas (which fall within the blue bounding box: points C, F, G, D, L & A) can put us within target range.  And from target range we need just one more normal sized idea – and we’ve struck pay dirt! 

Talent is nice, (when it comes to becoming a GENIUS).  But as you can see from the diagram, nothing beats getting started.  (Or, just “showing up”, as Woody Allen says.)  First you must create a bunch of normal ideas. 

The other thing you must have is faith.  Without the faith that one of your ‘normal’ ideas will eventually lead you to a GENIUS idea, you will stop showing up – breaking Cardinal Rule # 1 – and experience…. failure.  This is absolutely true. 

All of which makes me think that artists are more beholden to religions than as just our historical patrons.  Artists also suffer this necessity of faith.  Artists and religious figures suffer together – appearing as fools (and worse) until some breakthrough is finally had: the miracle occurs, the work of genius is finally created.

So say “Hi!” to your local minister/rabbi/imam/priest…. and shake their hand.  They are our Brothers and Sisters in the Struggle.

Diagram by Carl Nelson

(For a nice printed copy, suitable for framing, send $5.00)


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