Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Creators, Performers, and Art

In my posts, I talk a lot about the two different kinds of producers: creators and performers. And while I have a sense of what these two terms entail, I am still not fully clear on how to explicitly define them. To make things more complicated, there are examples of both that (at least short-term) are more readily classified as consumers.

Of those who ultimately produce more than they consume, the most important are the artists. However, art is difficult to define as well. It is not inherent to any medium or activity, but is possible anywhere that people are involved. Art is the capturing of the utterly human. It requires emotional labor, cannot be done [directly] for money, and resonates with something timeless and unifying in the human spirit.

It is by way of this definition of art that we can seek to find the border between creating and performing. Creator-artists are inspired to capture the human spirit in their art. Performer-artists are driven to use what has been captured in new and innovative ways. Whatever a creator captures well has the power to change the game—to level the playing field. Performers seek to be the first to understand the change and its advantages—to be the first to unlock the next level.

Between them there is a shift in the balance of focus between composition and execution. Creators concern themselves with the "what?" of their respective fields. They seek to change or create new forms—to redefine. While performers concern themselves with the "how?" of their chosen game. They seek existing knowledge about the truth of reality in order to fully utilize its functions.

The point of discussing these two terms is not to say one is better than the other. Quite the contrary, we need both equally. It is ideal to say that we ought to work in creator-performer duos (one-to-one), but the reality is that no two artists are equal in productive output, and therefore it is more realistic to think in terms of small groups including balanced productive output.

Ultimately, the point is to help you find your purpose by first identifying your drive. When you know which type determines your motivation and to what extent, you can more effectively find your fit in society with all its available prosperity.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Unity and Understanding

Unity and understanding are two terms which are critical to a civil society and its prosperity. Both are often applauded in the media, but not as a general rule—applying to everyone. It's one thing to desire unity and understanding within a tribe, and quite another to desire them between tribes.

As with major political parties, creators and performers are diametrically opposed in their interests. The more these groups unify and understand their members, the more they tend to cultivate those members' division from and ignorance of other groups—particularly those in opposition.

But opposition creates balance. Imagine two people holding hands and spinning in a circle. They can lean back rather far without falling over. Then imagine them holding the ends of progressively thinner ropes. At what point is the connection too weak to sustain balance?

Furthermore, when the connection remains the same, but the single persons on either side become groups, the connection is strained to the breaking point. What is the solution?

If each member of the opposing groups takes up an adequate connection between himself and one other person, the strength with which the groups are connected would be indestructible. It is natural, and therefore easy, to forge connections within a group. So each balanced coupling would produce individual emissaries who would enable understanding.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: unity and understanding can only be adequately accomplished on the familiar level. We must each be familiar with the viewpoints of people who the system tries to call our enemies. We must then share our understanding with our friends.

It takes emotional labor, but it's indispensable.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

If I Knew Then...

"If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have wasted all that time."

This is a common thought for anyone who has persevered through some trial in life, and come out the other side with nothing material to show for it. Sometimes driven people can become so focused on their goals—particularly if it is a material goal—that they fail to address problems along the way.

Contrary to geometric reasoning, in human existence, the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. For one, navigating the minefield necessitates well-planned deviation from a straight path. For two, rough terrain may cause one to fall to one side or another even on a straight path.

Yes, a goal is vital and must be kept in view, but equally important is managing day-to-day concerns.

If you knew along the way what struggles you'd have, you'd likely never begin. If you did, you'd take a vastly different path which would bring its own unique struggles. It is from the struggles that we learn life's lessons.

If we knew all lessons, there would be no reason to do anything—if fact, there would be no way to do anything. Do you suppose anything worth having comes without some struggle created by an unlearned lesson? If so, what prevents you from having everything you've ever desired?

The truth is that when nothing material is gained from a struggle, that fact does not mean that the time spent in the struggle was a wasted. A series of lessons must contribute to developing the character within you that is worthy of attaining the goal.

If you knew then what you know now, then you know no more now than you ever did. Furthermore, you know nothing about learning from your mistakes—and are doomed to repeat them.

I pity the fool!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Force and Fallout

So many great ideas. So little impact. Artists tend to be scattered, beginning projects which will never or can never be finished. The ones that do get finished, seem a weak shadow of the artists' vision.

Somehow, a volume of such works gets spawned into existence. Each unit gathers some interest whenever it is viewed, and the collection might inspire awe. However, it is forgotten as soon as the next interesting thing is viewed.

The problem is focus. An artist must possess not only the ability to dream up one idea after another, but also the ability to prioritize these ideas. His vision must include the full breadth and depth of an idea's potential. He must be able to separate the good from the great, and commit to finishing what is destined to be great.

This sort of focus will generate enormous force of influence among those with whom it resonates. If this influence gains enough momentum, then it will—like a nuclear blast—also generate fallout. Beyond clearing the board and leveling the playing field, fallout changes the game over time.

Create something great, useful, beneficial—then branch out to where people's thinking is. Interest them, challenge them, lead them to sophistication.

With focus, you can create a powerful blast that will grab the attention of like-minded people. These people will be compelled to share the experience of such a work of art. "Finally," many of them will say, "Someone has said what I could not." The art will act as a catalyst for discussion, and hearts and minds will be changed for the better.

But this starts with a challenge to the artist, who must understand truth in order to inspire greatness. The countdown begins with you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Positive Trajectory

Media distribution companies like Amazon and Netflix have long since engaged in suggesting like products as a way to increase sales. Netflix, I believe, is more sophisticated in it's approach. This is surprising, considering that Amazon's approach actually leads to increased sales, while Netflix merely makes the service more valuable to the user.

Of course, the major difference is the word "service." If Netflix can broaden its users horizons, the user will be compelled to increase his subscription rate in order to take greater advantage of it. Therefore, while Amazon tends to suggest an increasingly narrow subject focus, Netflix benefits from encouraging a wider field of subjects.

The former has a negative trajectory. By suggesting more of the same, that one method is dependent upon the user's will to seek out new subjects. If he does not do so himself, it leads him to the inevitable conclusion that he has read "everything." He therefore forms his worldview around a limited knowledge base. If you like John Grisham, and Amazon only suggests other books like his, then you are bound to think the world is rife with conspiracy and crime.

The latter has a positive trajectory. By suggesting increasing variety, such a method leads the user to new places. It is still dependent upon his will to explore the paths suggested, but never leaves the user with the sense that he has seen everything—which would make the service valueless. Plus, since the user is encouraged to explore different viewpoints and different subjects, this method better equips the user to understand the true world around him.

I must point out that I respect and appreciate the services of both companies, and suggest you utilize them in your media pursuits. Ultimately, we are each responsible for balancing our own intellectual diets and pursuing positive trajectory in our learning habits.

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Faith Culture

We're in a post-religion society, but we're in a new faith culture. Churches are fraught with so many ill conceptions that a more subtle, pragmatic approach to faith is most beneficial. The understanding of true principles (which all stable religions have in common) need not—and must not—be limited to the study of one central text.

If that one text is perfect, as an adherent must suppose, it cannot explain all the problems of the world. Cannot, because a perfect text cannot by definition contain imperfect thinking, which is at the root of all problems. To follow, but not adopt, a line of imperfect thinking is to education yourself in the art of repairing that thinking.

No one has ever won an argument by forcefully asserting his position. If all he knows is his doctrine—even if it gives him perfect clarity—how can he hope to enlighten others without knowing where they are? Understanding the current worldview of your audience—and more importantly, the individuals within it—is paramount to leading them away from their errors.

Whenever churches attempt to indoctrinate people with this method, they are necessarily met with resistance. Unfortunately, most religions have built-in blinders to this problem. They expect resistance and heckling whenever they attempt to share their message, and explain it as the influence of "the devil" or of "the world" rather than as their own lack of understanding of that world.

When churches are independent, they tend to maintain divisions from other churches and the world. From other churches their division is based upon petty doctrine; from the world, it is based upon insane levels of nonsensical beliefs—or at least, unnecessary amounts of what makes no sense to outsiders.

What this amounts to is supreme and understandable skepticism for any and all religions (hence, we are a post-religion society). Unbelievers and outsiders see nothing but schism and disagreement between warring sects, each trying blindly and aggressively to recruit from an increasingly resistant crowd. Being apart of that cynical crowd, therefore, becomes more attractive than anything the religions offer.

Petty differences and misunderstandings are the fog that keeps us groping in the dark. Contrast all this darkness and hopelessness with the light of truth: having faith means believing in the good qualities of human nature, and using your innate abilities to bring those qualities out of people. It means unity on common ground and a de-prioritization of things that don't matter.
FEATURED MEDIA: Saved! - A fun movie about some of the situations we can find ourselves in when we forget to keep the faith and merely obsess over the religion.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Alienation

I had an experience today that made me feel like I was from another planet. I met a guy on the job a few days back, who seemed alright to me—as long as he kept his mouth shut. The owner of a house I was painting had hired this carpenter to redo some trim work, and despite his friendly, professional demeanor in front of the owner, beneath the surface lay a vulgar child.

Normally, I like to think while I work—about a story I'm writing, topics for this blog, or politics and philosophy in general. It passes the time wonderfully and give me a chance to clarify my thinking by filing away things I've recently learned. If I'm not able to concentrate due to fatigue or whatever, I try to listen to something productive or artful—informative talks by great minds, audio versions of the classics, or artistic music. None of this is the normal fare for broadcast radio.

Worse than the faults of television are the faults of radio, in my opinion. Not only does most of the music make it impossible to think (that's the point), but you're hammered with ads that reveal the markers' understanding of their audience. Namely, that the audience is made up of people with the emotional intelligence of a preschooler.

Mostly, I'm inclined to give skilled tradesman—who make up the bulk of the daytime audience—the benefit of the doubt, if for no other reason than that I currently make my living as one. However, in this case, I think they hit the nail on the head.

He started playing some rap/techno station, which would have been interesting if it hadn't been a top hits type station. Artistic music deals with a variety of lyrical themes, expressing a wide range of emotions. XM and Sirius are subscription based, and tend to play a more offbeat variety. Top hits mostly center on love (or just sex) as a theme, and anger or sadness as the emotions. ("I want to @#$% you like an animal.")

After admitting to me that "this is the first day in a long time, I've come to work sober," he started prompting me about my musical tastes. This led him to drop "typical male" comments about women and things that can be done to them. I began to dislike the guy.

At some point, I mention that I'm married. He expounded upon his philosophy of marriage—basically, that women should be seen and not heard, and that the only reason I'm still married is because I haven't realized I don't like her yet. At that point, I decided he was positively wasting my time, and was glad when he left and didn't come back that day.

Today, he compounded what I already regarded as unlikable about him. My only solace was that he was talking to my dad and not directly to me. My dad, however—being a devout Christian and active member of his church— was about as polar-opposite to the guy as could be. The guy opened the conversation by saying, "I was screwing this chick..." and ended by saying "...and she was married."

Upon learning of my dad's religious disposition (and hearing, I believe for him, I much needed retelling of the Christian story), he responded as any man of the world would—like a 4 year-old. In a sort of conversational ninjitsu that would prompt Freud to write another book, he changed the subject to the criticism of another tradesman whose crew was on the same job.

He seemed to search his mind for the most vulgar expressions of "rip-off" he could find. He said the owner (a woman) was going to get "f---ed" by this guy's unfair business tactics. He added, "ass f---ed, and face f---ed!" to the list. If it wasn't sad, I'd have begun to hate him.

But really, it is sad. This reaction was an obvious attempt to display that my dad's "preaching"—as he no doubt felt it was—had no effect on him whatsoever. He believes that he is some sort of free-thinking individual, but he is sadly mistaken. He is playing the role of a child in a man's body—stunted in his emotional growth by the worldly influences he desires to be steeped in, and perpetually easy game for beer ads, casino ads, sex-related ads, and eventually pharmaceutical drug ads (for the things he'll catch).

This vulgar emotional outburst has more negative impact on him than anyone else. The point of faith is to find peace, but he is not at peace. The more he tries to prove he cannot be converted to "perfection" (which is never the point, or your religion is wrong), the more he shuts doors to relationships that could help him. I have myself, decided I would never hire him as he is.

Imagine your life is like a Facebook profile or a Twitter feed. If all you do is spread vulgarity and complaints—though you have every right to do so—you will only succeed in driving away friends/followers who don't share your views. If my dad alienates this guy by sharing the gospel, so much the better for my dad—he probably wouldn't benefit from the guy's company anyway. But if this guy alienates people like myself or my dad, he loses business referrals and other relational connections that would improve his life.

That's just not worth the risk.
FEATURED MEDIA: How to Win Friends and Influence People - The classic guide to repairing and developing relationships of all kinds.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Irrational Rationale, Part 3

Spirituality

Irrational rationale happens in the human heart. We love and want to be loved. We fear and want to avoid the object of our fears. Unlike animals, we are able build a civilization upon faith. That is, we are capable of thinking long term and of recording our history, and so we are able to learn from past failures in order to improve. Our ability to understand abstract concepts enables us to act effectively without concrete data.

Yet no matter how high we rise, all our systems are bound by certain truths. The integrity of our civilization is dependent upon its members' broad understanding of these truths and their willingness to act in accordance with their nature. We rationalize irrationally when we lose confidence in our understanding of nature and become too afraid to take a leap of faith.

Ultimately, all failures in human history have been a result of an inability or unwillingness to span the gap between rational thought (the mind) and irrational thought (the heart). Historically, religions have been the guiding light to meet this need. When they promote faith over fear, they effectively become a source of liberal education.

However, fear of God's wrath can be a lever for clergy (et al.) whose irrational rationale leads them to adopt tyrannical methods of spreading their doctrine. Whether or not a person, church, or religion is right in their interpretation of a holy text is for the individual and his community to decide amongst themselves. If a congregation does not accept an elder's opinion, it is the responsibility of the elder to clarify or abandon that view. It is not right for him to call down the wrath of God upon his opponents when he might be mistaken.

In his book, Tribes, Seth Godin offers phenomenal into the difference between "religion" and "faith." Though most people use them interchangeably, they are on different levels. Religion belongs to the mental, rational realm. It is the collection of texts, artifacts, practices, symbols, etc. of a given people (chosen or adopted). It is a teacher and reminder of faith.

Faith belongs to the ethereal, emotional realm. It is the set of principles or natural laws that transcend individual religions—an undercurrent that has the power to unite all peoples. Despite its irrational nature, it does possess a nature which can be understood. It can be argued that faith is a spectrum from fear to faith. Furthermore, that fear is a lack of understanding of the significant events in life. Faith is the discipline to rationalize the irrational heart through a continued quest for truth.

This is vastly different from the current political notion (at least in America) that we are somehow being open to all religions by seeking to remove symbols of Christianity from our national heritage. It is especially laughable to consider the irrational thought that a level-headed Muslim would be offended by the Ten Commandments, when the Commandments are the perhaps most explicit expression of natural principles that exist in any religion.

Anyone who thinks this, might do well to examine their thought process. Do we think anyone would be offended by the expression, "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15)? And of the Muslims, do our prejudices suppose they hate the Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13)?

Our hearts are our greatest blessing, which gives us the ability to love, to forgive, to believe, to envision, and to overcome great obstacles. Our ability to sometimes have irrational thoughts allows us to bend our understanding of the world around us—to see around the next corner, as it were. Without it, we could not build a civilization, but when it gets out of hand, it can tear a rift between the concrete prison of the real world and the abstract world of vision.

And I don't know which is worse: to be trapped in the prison with no hope, or to be trapped in the dreamworld with no means to enjoy it.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Monday, August 2, 2010

Irrational Rationale, Part 2

Politics

It is difficult to see the economy failing, and even more difficult to calm irrational fears when it is. However, the momentary fact of a depression in available resources is not evidence of a continuing trend. Chris Brady, co-author of the book Launching a Leadership Revolution, compares most people's irrational rationale in politics with the actions of a novice pilot in a stall.

A "stall" is a term used to describe the situation of a plane whose wings have stopped producing lift. When this happens, the plane follows nature and falls out of the sky. Novice pilots, like people uneducated in political history, do the exact wrong thing by attempting to make the plane climb higher. Instead, the plane must be plunged toward the ground—whereby increasing the pressure under the wings, and regaining lift.

Despite volumes of political history containing such political stalls and the crashes resulting from mismanagement of the situation, the problem persists. Just to be clear, when I use the word "politics," I am referring not just to government or even corporate hierarchy, but to the entire gambit of human interaction on the rational-mental level.

I think it's because we forget how often things change. When things are up, we expect them to stay up. When they are down, we fear they will stay down. This is completely irrational, yet we decide policy based upon these irrational projections. When we assume things will continue to get worse we dispense blame and seek desperate, immediate remedies. When we assume things will continue to go up, we use it to justify instant-gratification.

This instant-gratification in every area political life leaves us inevitably vulnerable to compounding debt, then unpaid debts on the books of financial institutions, and finally some manner of economic collapse. Of course, this leads to an entreatment of the government for bailouts—an action which does not erase debts, but merely spreads them among the taxpayers. The result, of course, is that taxpayers who were formerly just barely making minimum payments, now can no longer afford to do that. And the cycle continues.

But economic policy is not the only thing effected by irrational rationale in political life—though it is the primary means and motivation. Both social justice (the punishment of criminal citizens) and national security (defense against aggressors from abroad) take whatever opportunities they are given to expand beyond their proper borders.

It is easier to build prisons and expand upon the specific laws that can put people into them, than it is to fix the problems of society that cause people to commit desperate acts. While this assertion is a simplistic view, and there certainly are deranged individuals that need to be locked away, the vast majority of crime can be prevented with a better social system—education about human nature, and more freedom—not less freedom.

While certainly a necessary and proper role of government, national security can be used to justify forced democracy. It is easier to utilize money and guns to force a structure of government on a difficult to deal with, and difficult to understand people. The solution, of course, is to do the hard work of seeking first to understand, then to be understood. Only upon such diplomatic ground, can difficult human interaction be smoothed out. Again, this is simplistic, as military defense and offense are a necessary response to aggression.

However, there is more to human nature than can be set down in the program of a political machine...

TO BE CONTINUED...

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Sunday, August 1, 2010

July '10: The Month in Posts

The ideas of the cause are continuing to come together! As a man on a journey of discovery, I am blown away by what I discover about myself, my world, and the people that want to control both—even if they believe wholeheartedly that it is for my own good.

But you know I don't subscribe to that.

Selling Out - July 11, 2010
Ultimately, I think selling out means betraying your fans, especially your ├╝berfans. If you can't sell the vast majority of your ├╝berfans on the change, then you've bitten the hand that feeds you. On the other hand (pun intended), if the change brings your art closer to its FIT state, then your fans will either come around or they weren't true fans—either way, you'll increase your ├╝berfanbase. (read more)
The Apparatus - July 13, 2010
There is nothing wrong with constructing a machine to handle what is known, insofar as it is available for use by all. Factories became an important part of our economy in the early 20th Century, and have evolved from the literal industrial form into big box stores and other business models. The more tasks can be gotten "down to a science," more machines can take over those tasks. This is desirable because it frees people to solve more organic problems which require human creativity. (read more)
Language is the Key to Thought - July 15, 2010
I came to the realization that language is not only limited to words, but also to visual forms. It was not because I knew the name for a transmission that I was able to identify the one in my car, but because I understood the form of a transmission. Having learned more extensively what each car part does within the system, my brain was able to capture the range of shapes to which a given part is limited—by physical laws, among other things. (read more)
The War of Ideas - July 18, 2010
In considering these Questions, there is a huge difference between being moderate and being mediocre. To be a spectator at the game of life is to merely watch the competition of ideas in the political and social arena. Mediocrity is waiting for the hard questions to be answered by someone else—then reading the scores with an idle interest. (read more)
168 Hours, Part 2 - July 22, 2010
The New Network Plan - The television network will have to undergo an extreme makeover to survive the information revolution. First, it must forgo static programming. Second, it must trim the fat from its output. Third, it must liquidate and re-commission its assets. Fourth, it must welcome creative fans. Fifth, it must reward evangelism. (read more)
Leaders and Followers - July 26, 2010
By constantly seeking to be in agreement with the mind of the masses in order to maintain expanding (if increasingly unstable) viewership, mass media entertainment unknowingly follows it into the inevitable depths of pessimism. Media that criticizes the world for its problems merely re-enforces the thinking that created the problems. (read more)