coromandal


We must learn not to care

What makes us anxious? Everything it seems: job, relationship, traffic, people in general – ha! The quote below by Tom Hodgkinson says anxiety compromises our creative natures; that’s the most important message. To get creative again, which is our natural state, we must overcome anxiety. And to overcome anxiety, we must identify the things that make us anxious and counter them. Identify and counter. Here are some notes from my reading of this text.

Generally speaking, the pursuit of security is the root cause of anxiety. This pursuit includes all the biggies of modern life: career, mortgages etc; they make us anxious because they cancel our creativity.

The pursuit of security gives anxiety which cancels creativity. That’s the present formula. The new formula could be the rejection of security reduces anxiety and reinstates creative nature.

One antidote to security is fatalism. The mystical, ecumenical, smells and bells, communal, mindful, slightly superstitious faiths, with icons and saints and processions make us less anxious. Why? Because they emphasize fatedness over security and control; they help us to see our place in the world as haphazard, willed by some force outside of ourselves. They free us back into our natural creative natures.

From How to be Free:

Anxiety is the sacrifice of creativity in the service of security. It is the giving up of personal freedoms in return for the promise, never fulfilled, of comfort, cotton wool, air conditioned shopping centres. Security is a myth; it simply doesn’t exist. This does not stop us, however, from constantly chasing it.

/…/

Another simple solution to anxiety is to embrace a fatalistic theology. Catholics, say, are probably less anxious than Protestants. Buddhists are certainly less anxious than Jews. If you believe that there’s nothing much that you can do that makes any sense other than to enjoy yourself, then your anxiety will fade. If you have that Puritan cast of mind and feel that you are terribly important in the world and it really matters what you do, then your anxiety will increase. Self-importance breeds anxiety. We must learn not to care – not in the sense of being selfish but in the sense of being carefree.

Tom Hodgkinson, How To Be Free, p 11

 



legion
March 12, 2011, 11:24 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

My name is legion:  for we are many, said the possessed man from Gadara to Jesus in the first century AD as recorded in the gospel accounts of the Bible.  Many demons, one man.  He was resigned to them and to his split nature:  I am … we are, he confesses, a man divided against himself.

We are always suspicious of the truly creative among us.  We keep them on a short leash; patronize them for as long as we can get away with it; trot them out for the sake of appearance and public trust.  But really and effectively, we cast them out.  They are freaks, and that’s how freaks are treated.

The psychologist Csikszentmihalyi — quoted below — says that creative people are adaptable and complex, qualities that don’t seem extraordinary.  But, he also says they do special tricks.  They embody extreme contradictions, for instance.  They are able to combine things that most people can’t, like thinking and doing.  Most spectacularly – and curiously – a creative person is a multitude.  Legion.

Continue reading



20% innovation = 80% zzzzz
October 18, 2010, 12:41 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

Filmmaker Peter Greenaway talking about composer John Cage’s dictum to take it slow or suffer the consequence of empty houses for 15 years.

John Cage suggested that if you introduce more than twenty percent of innovation into any artwork, you immediately lose 80 percent of your audience. He suggested this might remain the case for a subsequent fifteen years. He was being optimistic. We have to travel slowly, since I want to continue making movies. They’re expensive. I don’t know why they have to be so expensive, but that’s the way things are. They’re also complex collaborations. I can’t make movies on my own. I think we have to travel at a certain pace, to accommodate the introduction of radicalism or exploratory ideas embracing both old and new technologies.

Peter Greenaway, by Lawrence Chua, BOMB 60/Summer 1997



banking education

This excerpt from Paulo Freire‘s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a discussion of techniques of education while also being a broad critique of how conservative societies are run.

He says that institutionalizing a false separation between those who ‘know’ and those who ‘don’t know’ debases and enslaves whole classes of people in our society.

He defines knowledge as a continuously restless and symbiotic and necessary inquiry between student and teacher and teacher and student.

He reveals for what they are an educational elite who prescribe and enforce a mythology of ignorance on a supposed uneducated under class, thereby maintaining their own place at the top.

He offers the hope of a system of education in which teacher and student are reconciled.

I have taught at the university level for over 10 years.  My best students were always capable of the symbiotic relationship with me that Freire describes.  However there is always, in every class, strong evidences of the passive student who has been pushed down and made to memorize and regurgitate and obey.

This book was published in the late 1960s – 50 years ago! – and is amazingly topical.  That a simple classroom could hide beneath it’s innocent exterior such scandal.  Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we publicly identified the corruption of banking education and upended it?  A flowering of creativity, an outpouring of new knowledge, new institutions with new agendas, new and interesting kinds of conflict, stuff we’ve never seen before.  What about you?  What differences can you see?

Here is Freire’s excerpt —

Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teachers existence — but unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher.

The raison d’etre of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.

/../

The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students’ creative power and to stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed.

-Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed



it needs you but it is not on your side
May 19, 2009, 12:20 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

A man brings a large burden to Salon’s Cary Tennis – a sick wife, advanced age and an unrealized childhood dream to write which has fallen short of the mark.  Tennis’s response – to go to the core motivation and to recognize and spurn superficials like awards or sales – is tonic for the compromised artist.

From I feel like quitting writing

But at the age of 55 I now believe that my adolescent insight was essentially correct: As creative people, we do exist in fundamental opposition to the dominant culture. Knowing this, we do not wait to be chosen. Rather, we fight to be heard.

So remember that as a writer you must find your motivation internally, not in external rewards, and you work in opposition to the system, not as a supplicant to the system. Whatever contingent truces you have maintained with the system in order to participate in its orderly orgies of consumption and distribution, good for you. But you are not a part of the system. You are a free creative worker. You do not need the system to do your creating. You only need it as a utility to reach your audience, and increasingly not even for that.

On the other hand, the system cannot create anything on its own. It can only manage and distribute. So it needs you.

It needs you but it is not on your side. Remember that.