Something exciting just occurred to me. Instead of literally arguing with people whose ideas I find questionable, I can argue with their premises in my writing. I know it’s silly to suddenly realize something like this. Obviously, that’s called criticism and it’s how new knowledge is created. But still, it’s important when a specific lightbulb goes off in one’s own head and something fundamental is internalized.
The question on the table is whether my new project will thrive in the town I live in. The unspoken suggestion is that since Roanoke is a nowhere town with nothing and nobody special (elite, high-up) in it, the project itself is potentially useless since no one big or important is there to approve of it.
“Will it thrive?” is a valid question, but, to me, a boring and unimaginative one. I heartily disagree with the premise of the question. Whether or not the project will thrive is a patriarchal notion firmly ensconced in an un-mythical scientifically-inclined intellectual landscape. It says that a creative project must have a means to an end, some quantifiable purpose or value, particularly a financial one.
People think of thriving and success as directly connected to money and power, both of which ultimately derive from the adoration of masses and their incessant willingness to dump large sums of cash into the lap of the latest embodiment of a je ne sais quoi that will rescue them from their infernal hopelessness. No one honestly stops to consider that we are living in the Iron Age and that infernal hopelessness is simply part of the program.
Our language and our impulses have become so intertwined with notions of (and a desperate desire for) success that we don’t even stop to ask why anymore. We just go, go, go into the day and into the night, bemoaning (in a totally disingenuous, attention-seeking voice) how busy we are. Busy has become the correct one-word reply to the question: “How are you?”
Ugh. What a tremendously boring answer to a supremely profound question. Rearrange the letters and the question is really asking, “Who are you?” Our answer is just another example of how we daily—casually—massacre the sacred.
A creative act—an authentic expression of creativity—like any image—is its own thing. It is absolutely valid on its own terms and doesn’t need to be qualified or validated, least of all by the shallow pug-nosed standards of the neo-bourgeoisie.
The drive to succeed financially, to be seen and adored by masses of people, to gain power and fame and “be somebody,” pulls us away from the meaning of our work and depersonalizes the act of creativity. The act of creativity is the work of a soul in communion with its own becoming. Weighing the value of a creative act against the approbation of the masses is the opposite of that.
For me, this project is a creative act and is totally valid, regardless of where it is located. In fact, I prefer that it is in the middle of nowhere because people who live in the middle of nowhere are far more interesting and open-minded than people who live in the middle of it all. They aren’t so full of themselves and they have space inside their souls for God to enter.
Michael Meade says, “At critical times a person has to be willing to take without permission and become wily enough to circumvent the social norms and moral rules.” He advocates for adopting the thief’s attitude to one’s life. We must steal our own lives back from the deafening mediocrity of the market economy and its numberless sell-outs.
I’ve spent several lifetimes rifling through the goods, services, and increasingly hysterical marketing literature of this world and I can tell you there’s very little there worth stealing, much less worth dying for, which is what subservience to the heroic values of success and achievement requires of the soul.
This work will thrive simply because it is creative work and I am doing it willingly, singing a jolly tune and dancing all the way. Nothing more than that is needed, it is enough.