creativity

Cultivate Attention and Discernment (4)

La Clairvoyance (1936) (“Perspicacity”) By René Magritte 1936.

“Sound judgement, with discernment is the best of seers.”

— Euripides


Reading time: 15-17 mins

So far, we’ve looked at healing the past so that we have a firm foundation upon which to build, such as choosing constructive, positive emotions. To be able to take the first steps, we must have enough self-respect and at least some measure of self-control to take responsibility for our own development. That means choosing this as a central aim parallel or including, a process of objectives, without self-deception or short-cuts. We must simplify our daily routines and scale back our ambitions so that undue complexity doesn’t enter in prematurely. Economising our energy permits progress to that end. If we never have enough mental, emotional and physical energy available then our aim will remain in the realm of fantasy – the very source of the drain itself. Non-identification, positive detachment and proper attention help us simplify and return to what is essential. To be aware of the mammalian brain and its addictive habits we can choose to cultivate attention. When we know what to look for, we can begin to recognise the emotional, intellectual and physical patterns which keep our creative potential trapped. We might then be able to discern the true nature of ourselves and our relationship to others.

So, what is “discernment” exactly? From the Latin words ‘dis’ (apart) and ‘cernere’ (to separate), it’s a skill that we develop in order to comprehend what is vague or obscure. This applies to a person, situation or an abstract idea. It is the art of seeing which includes the realm of the five senses and by extension, the possibility of accessing different modes of perception using the marriage of intuition and reason. And we do this by shunning self-orientated, subjective impressions and by striving to obtain an objective view of life as possible.

If we can comprehend something and reach clarity then we can exercise sound judgement and the further ability to discriminate between what is true or false. Discrimination – the noticing of any part, quality, impression, detail or difference in comparison to another object, person or situation – is the essential partner to discernment. Without constant discrimination between what is negative and positive, good or evil, gaining useful insights from a holistic view cannot be attained.

Careful discrimination weighs up and compares, discernment permits initial recognition of impressions received. We are then able to exercise judgement and reach a conclusion of the overall picture, coordinated by the will of attention. As Scottish theologian Sinclair B. Ferguson states: “True discernment means not only distinguishing [discriminating] the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.” And this means learning that the “devil” is often in the details because lies to ourselves and lies in the outer world are frequently sandwiched between the sweet and seemingly well-intentioned. Or, as British Baptist Preacher Charles Spurgeon once cautioned: “Discernment is not a matter of telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” Which is why ancient philosophical traditions emphasize the subtleties inherent in developing such skills.

“Almost right” is still wrong. And that can be a big deal when your life depends on it.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (6)

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope is strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But, suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice? Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

—  C.S. Lewis


Reading time: 8-10 mins

The Positive thinking, LOA and YCYOR triangle is the lynchpin of the new age or Human Potential Movement, often fused with left-liberal beliefs. What happens when these ways of viewing the world are placed in an overtly spiritual context?

A constant theme that runs through many of these essay series is the idea that one’s spiritual quest is fraught with potential dangers. It’s designed that way and is not for the faint-hearted. I am one of those who has learned the hard way that self-awareness and seeking truth requires an exacting sacrifice of personal, selfish desires.

If you decide to follow a genuine spiritual path without attending to fundamental emotional issues, you will find yourself on a very hard road indeed as the signal to grow receives a response. Such a response (depending on the degree of personality deformation present) sets in motion a process whereby the person is given the tools and circumstances by which soul influence can begin to grow. That cannot be anything other than painful since, like a drug addict, you are shedding outmoded and negative behaviours which you have taken on as normal. Cold turkey isn’t just for those coming off substance abuse, it can be as harrowing to divest yourself of childhood and cultural conditioning.

The cultural inculcation to support a psychopathic worldview is disguised as benevolence or empowerment. In the final analysis however, we always have a choice to change and to seek out what is really going on behind The Wizard Of Oz’s theatrical curtain on reality. Dealing with our emotions is the first step.

If we insist in wallowing in the influences of Official Culture, whilst immersing ourselves in the theory of spiritual transformation – it won’t work, at least not in the way we might think. Information becomes knowledge by applying and testing out what we have discovered. That means we cannot be in two realities at once which means a decision will need to be made, whether we like it or not. If you are perpetually on the fence then you at a standstill or worse, one centre of gravity within your personality will be inflated whilst another will atrophy.

Much of the illness of our western culture derives from the denial of what is, and the rejection of inner knowing in favour of security, self-satisfaction and a fragile peace. It’s ultimately a denial of the Universe/God which seeks consciousness, seeded in complex sentient life i.e. humans – to become self-aware, warts and all. Once we have made a contract with Life due to our self-evident existence, part of that decision is to willingly choose to access your greatest potential by serving others, thereby serving yourself. When we do so with conviction a new dimension of possibility opens up for us – literally. Walk long enough along that road without application of those discoveries then reality will become more and more insistent that you “walk the talk” away from theory and toward actualisation of faith and purpose.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (5)

pixabay / infrakshun

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

— Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)


Reading time: 20 mins

Mainstreaming Magick

It might seem a stretch to equate boiler basement magick with so much of the self-help, positive thinking cult but bear with me.

You’ve probably become accustomed to the gradual popularisation and  mainstreaming of various forms of ceremonial and sympathetic magick. There is a huge market in black magick and associated celebration of the demonic and supernatural mysteries. Wherever there is a natural curiosity about such things then you can be sure it can be milked by turning it into a commodity thereby serving a tripartite purpose of 1) Feeding the economic technosphere 2) entrainment of elite ideas 3) normalisation of their memes and concepts.

Positive thinking, much of new age philosophy, self-help coaching and business is now reaping the short-term, feel-good benefits of occult principles applied to daily life. Now, mainstreaming the Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Wicca and Witchcraft can be seen in Hollywood, television, art and entertainment in general. There is a huge information explosion purposely generated and carefully executed like a drip-feed of psychic driving.

Hey boys and girls! Werewolves or Vampires? Make your choice. Magickal formulas and invocations? Take your pick! (Just don’t think for yourselves…Conjure something that can do it for you).

If you know nothing of ritual magick, don’t worry. You’re better off. But it’s important to know that occult principles lie behind much of our institutional history and play a big part in Elite beliefs up to the present day. Which is why, in part, the marketing of magick in popular culture is so lucrative: it taps in to a human need to control in the face of uncertainty; to be part of a tribe that may have the inside scoop. It would also be foolish to say that there isn’t illuminating knowledge to be found in some forms of occult study of the dim and distant past. However, we’ll stick to the brief: how positive psychology and new age marketing is firmly selling black magick principles.

So, why is this dicing with the devil? When we attempt such magickal intrusions into the natural order with the dictum of “energy follows thought” as a purely ego-based desire for betterment, one is elevating personal fantasy over what IS. And in occult terms this becomes super-charged regardless of magickal theory suggesting otherwise. This wish to employ a framework of magickal formulas is enticing but tends to invite more chaos into one’s life, not less. Such a place may initially offer fleeting “success” much like the initial froth on a champagne glass or firework display that dies down as quickly as it begins, but it’s not a long-term solution.

If you want to align to a law that posits a type of attraction which benefits us, you have to first ask where does the focus lie? MATTER OR SPIRIT? Do I really know the difference? Ask yourself if you are channelling your desires to get something for nothing. Does it make it a short cut? And if so, are short-cuts generally useful?

There is nothing new under the sun. There are however, innumerable ways truth can be re-packaged and re-sold to humanity as innovation and relevation to keep us trapped in the same cycles of spiritual imprisonment which have remained unbroken for millennia.  If you have a hard time pondering that essential reality then you’re probably a perfect candidate for the above tripartite system of control. What the accumulated wisdom of the past has tried to tell us over and over is that the keynote of our times is deception, the likes of which traverse social, cultural, political and most certainly so-called “spiritual” precepts. Such modes of high level disinformation and distortion work in ways that can easily boggle the mind.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (4)

 © Photodynamx | Dreamstime.com

“The most revolutionary act is a clear view of the world as it really is.”

  —Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)


Reading time: 15 minutes

Fantasy vs Creative Imagination

There is no question that we can choose positive emotions to improve our life. Yet, there are many things we must consider before pursuing that aim, not least of which is making sure we don’t foolishly believe that’s all we need to grow, in spite of a natural want to improve our lot. They are two separate things, however. The latter tends to accompany the former and not after some considerable hardship. This is the nature of awakening: it sends out a signal to a world opposed to such a path and its response is usually to send a few obstacles to put us back to sleep. Usually, they are seductive and go straight for our weakest spot, our Achilles heel.

We need to cultivate deep self-knowledge to check we are embracing the positive thinking train for the right reasons; healing trapped emotions so that we’re sure we’re not seeking escape; a balm for pain; searching for short-cuts or using such methods to attain power and dominance. More importantly, we are not feeding our tendency to fantasize about the future.

Fantasy fuels our needy emotions. Fantasizing may be a welcome break from drudgery, but you may unwittingly invite chaos into the present. The very act of supplying energy to fantasy means that effort in the real world commensurate with a proper evaluation of our abilities is being continually siphoned away from pragmatic action. Therefore, your future will make you feel worse, not better, ironically stemming from your over-identification to think positively, the anticipation of that new state and subsequent diluted effort that could have ignited the state of creative flow.

Effort demands deliberate, conscious practice and an open spirit of expectation that allows creative imagination to complement critical thinking. Fantasy is like a self-created whirlpool which keeps us trapped in the warm waters of our own self-conceit thus making sure we never actually manifest even the humblest of those possibilities.

What makes it worse is people routinely confuse fantasy with creative imagination. When people mention the positive aspect of fantasy they are talking about the creative imagination which is fantasy set to work. Intention defines whether or not fantasy becomes creative or just colourful noise. Psychotherapist Carl Jung highlighted the importance of “playing with fantasy” without which “no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

A bit of day-dreaming here and there is no bad thing. And the playing Jung talks about is really accessing imagination toward a general or specific quest. Children naturally access the creative imagination as means to derive meaning and emotional nourishment. Sensory input from play and day-dreaming are essential to future emotional stability. This is why so many kids have difficulties at school because our concepts of education are an assault on such creativity as it imposes dry, dead, tests and re-parents children along state-sanctioned directives. As we know, these are not based on a remotely coherent map of reality. Enforced learning along regimented lines divorced from emotional intelligence has the result of corralling kids into a body-mind matrix of unhealthy fantasy and an eternal longing for meaning by the time they are young adults. When the critical faculties and independence appear they are a pale reflection of what they should have been, sheared of the correct neural maps from the absence of joyful learning and proper emotional content. They are still locked into the unfulfilled and impoverished state that comes from an education that indoctrinates and programs children into a consensus trance.

When fantasy and wishful-thinking is sold as a “lifestyle design” then it becomes yet another way to keep us docile, disappointed and resentful. When combined with happiness as the primary goal and where spiritual aims are no different to material acquisition, then we are on a path to entropy, not creativity. When we are encouraged to make unrealistic and ill-thought out escapism into an overall aim, it just becomes self-indulgence.

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Have an Aim / Objective (2)

© Rostyslav Zabolotnyi | Dreamstime.com

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as
something to aim at.”

— Bruce Lee
.

Reading time: 20-25 mins.

This is a long post finalising our look at aim and objectives. I hope it will provide some food for thought as you go forward. Remember, that all the 31 suggestions exist as an essential part of each other. None of them come alive in isolation and all play a part in self-transformation.

***

Your aim must align to the best in yourself. It must ignite enjoyment over pleasure.

If you are an artist then your art must be deeply personal and passionately part of your being. When that happens, you will affect people. There are implications from your dedication to your aim. It will mean connections which initiate expansion for yourself and others. If you build your own narrative – genuine and sincere – it will click with others and they will play a part in the development and evolution of your aim.

Without that self-belief – because your aim and your objectives are you, if you’ve chosen correctly – the momentum is absent and the rotten fruit of failure will drop into your lap so many times that you’ll be forced to re-evaluate your plans. As long as the aim remains true, the distance and objectives along that trajectory can be adapted as many times as necessary. Failure is the whetstone upon which you build a razor-sharp aim that cuts through anything. This occurs by virtue of the fact is that it is TRUE and reflects the light of your intention.

Again, your aim and objectives will probably need work and will likely morph into something quite different depending on your field and focus. Go slow, step by step, that way you are much less likely to get disillusioned and/or create unnecessary obstacles. Often it is our anticipation and obsession with our aim that creates emotional static within which will repel constructive responses. Again, planning is about preparing the internal resonance so that the right response arrives in the outside world.

Do every objective for its own sake not for the perceived rewards. Even if your long-term aim keeps floating in front of you like a carrot on a stick, try to put it out of your daily mind while carefully arranging the system of objectives toward that aim. Every objective IS the aim. That way, instead of becoming impatient and miserable about your perceived lack of progress every completed action becomes part of that fractal process and overall vision, each giving birth to the other.

The manifestation of one’s final aim can’t happen overnight but it will happen.

In this post we’ll explore the notion of a personal system of consciousness and the process of objectives which can bring us creativity and flow, aligned to our primary aim.

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4. Have an Aim / Objective (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not
know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”

— Seneca

Reading time: 18 minutes

21st Century culture can be overwhelming in its intensity and the sheer rapidity of change. There is so much information entering our eyes and ears 24/7, it’s no wonder that we end up on auto-pilot the majority of the time. It’s similar to that state of mind one might slip into when one sit’s in front of the TV after a hard day’s work. You know, that slack-jawed, jelly-limbed creature that disappears into the sofa with only enough energy to click through hundreds of digital channels spewing up innumerable variations of the same utter shite to gum up our brains. When you mix in constant stress then dissociation is often not too far behind.

You don’t have to veer into dissociation to be habitualised to a kind of daily automatism, though the lines can be somewhat blurred. But if you spend a significant percentage of your life either day-dreaming (living in the future or the past) as a response to never having achieved what you really yearned for, then it’s time to defibrillate your life. Which why it is crucial to have a vocational passion that makes life worth living.

“What’s the point?”

Having an aim and an array of objectives means to orient ourselves away from chaos and into the arms of purpose, meaning and order. It provides structure against a sea of endless choices and sub-variables. Anyone that says they have no aim in life is lying to themselves. Everyone has an aim, even if it’s extremely modest. Most of us are dissatisfied with our lot and are seeking ways to improve it. Initially, that means seeking a short-cut to having our cake and eating it. But that route never provides what we really need, which is clarity and the courage to implement what we have honestly discovered. Such a realisation can continue for literally decades, especially if we are averse to change and covet security and the safety of routine.

Secretly many of us have dreams which take a battering from fate and circumstance leaving us stoic, bitter or “philosophical” about what we’ve decided can never be. Some of the rationalisations I’ve heard for dropping those dreams over the years are I’m sure, familiar to you…

  • I’m too old to do that now – it’s a young man’s/woman’s game
  • Too much time has passed – I wouldn’t know where to start
  • What would X think if I decided to do that?
  • I’m not good enough
  • X tried that and she couldn’t make a living
  • My father/mother wants me to follow in his/her footsteps
  • When would I find the time?
  • I don’t have enough money
  • It’s not practical right now

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose VII: Getting the Ball Rolling

By M.K. Styllinski

Logan Zillmer | www.loganzillmerphoto.com

“What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage.” 

— Bruce Barton


Reading time: 8-10 mins

The idea that we can be happy in a world that seems to veer from one chaotic clusterfuck to the next appears to be a tall order. How on earth can we be happy when there is so much suffering out there? Easy. Just pretend it isn’t there – something the majority of us do most of the time. Hence the reason we are where we are – in the proverbial pig sty.  Seeing things realistically and refusing to bounce through life in a “happy” bubble has consequences, but they are far less damaging spiritually than if we deny, deny deny.  The latter effectively accepts the lies we are fed on a daily basis and covets willful blindess and its sham of normalcy.

Conversely, we’d short circuit if we took the pain of the world onto our shoulders. Feeling guilt and pushing the altruistic envelope in a bid to save the planet isn’t the answer either. This is most disasterous when thwarted desires are funnelled through ideology and a slave to group consciousness as we are seeing. It’s always about finding the fulcrum, mediating between the extremes and digging for the gold of one’s true individuality.

The truth is, if we want to see reality and ourselves as objectively as possible, warts and all, the inner tension and friction created from such a choice may offer an opportunity to embody an entirely different order of happiness, borne of honouring reality as it is. This is transcending the happiness seesaw and building a strong centre within, capable of withstanding any storm at any port. In effect, rather than seeking to increase our happiness quota by insulating ourselves from reality and blocking attempts to go deeper into our own programming, we can attempt the high road to a happiness that’s a byproduct of what is essentially, a spiritual practice.

Of course, if you think there is nothing more to life other than what you can see in front of your own nose, then that’s fine. You can still obtain stability and some contentment, though the dimensions of inspiration and support may be more limited. Nonetheless, to achieve a different order of happiness and peace is to live in truth – despite and due to the darkness, that is also part of light. And to live in truth means to live as you really are.

What else is there?

Things may get even more existential here, so bear with me…

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Why Young Lives are Losing Meaning and Purpose II: The Big Three and 11 Factors

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny | unsplash.com


“Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and well-documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives…Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.”

~ Robert D. Putnam

Reading time: 20-25 mins

In the last post I looked at the decrease in meaning and purpose parallel to the increase in loneliness and isolation for today’s millennial and Z generations.  Sociologists, economists and psychologists generally all agree that the key to developing and holding on to meaning, purpose and well-being is sufficient social interaction with a core group of friends and family that define one’s support. This is not the same as an extended family that usually arises from enforced socio-economic factors, but one that naturally evolves based around shared vision of support and nourishment because it is both practical and sustainable, offering real world benefits.

John F. Helliwell, a prominent expert in the economics of happiness believes the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives at the deepest levels. And the quality of those relationships is reflected in how well we have activated our response-ability and activities that offer a form of service to the community – whatever form that might be. This is what creates and deepens ties with others: constructive actions alongside key initiatory ideas. Helliwell draws his work from very large data sets called the World Values Survey which has accrued answers from people in over 150 countries about life satisfaction along with other socio-economic information. When Helliwell crunched the data he and other researchers found that there were six reliable and consistent factors which accounted for well-being:

  1. Social support
  2. generosity
  3. trust
  4. freedom
  5. income per capita
  6. healthy life expectancy [1]

Four from the list are connected with social interaction within a community. The other factors are relational and occur as a response to, or as a natural property of social support.  So a stratum of support covering all aspects of human aspiration is a really big deal, the lack of which will play a large part in the development of our social ills.

The Big Three

It seems to me, the development of meaning and purpose is rooted in three foundational products of social interaction which, if healthy, underpin a successful society, the constituents of which all operate symbiotically and grow parallel to each other. Thus, the creation of an individual emerges and is informed by:

  1. Parents
  2. Family
  3. Community

Obvious perhaps, but in crisis nonetheless. These three make up the strata in the soil of society/culture which is dependent on the level of access to community (should it even exist) a solid connection to nature and the quality of the environment upon which all three rest. [2]  Similarly, the healthy functioning of the three will have within them poor psycho-spiritual “nutrients”, or a rich, fertile ground that is self-sustaining and therefore community-sustaining. The presence of Helliwell’s six factors will be informed by the quality of the Big Three.

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Rabbit in Your Headlights: The Road to Breaking Free

UNKLE – Rabbit in Your Headlights from Onur Akdeniz on Vimeo.


2016 was an incredible year of change and revelation. So, dramatic has it been that I noticed many friends and acquaintances suffering from Rabbit in the Headlights syndrome, where fake news by the MSM, the blatant lying and propaganda of our governments and the often painful malaise in the ability to think critically by so many has allowed others to wake up to this programming.  But there are dangers in this late stage perspicacity. One sees patterns of truth and underlying meaning but the intensity of that “light” causes a mix of cognitive dissonance and paralysing fear. As a result, it seems a few folks prefer to deny what they’ve seen and embrace the sophistry of “ignorance is bliss.”  In that sense, Knowledge becomes a threat to the established routine of  mechanical action and thought causing a shutting down of awareness and a return to comfortable beliefs with more tenacity than ever before, even though those beliefs bear no relation to reality. And it can certainly be disruptive and unnerving to see behind the dark curtain of mind control to which we have been subjected. But the moral imperative is always there should we choose to follow it.

Whilst Knowledge is undoubtedly power, it is the courage to accumulate and apply knowledge as close to an objective truth as we can that encourages the growth of conscience and thus the desire to serve others. I think this is where true creative power lies. By doing so, we serve ourselves as a feedback loop of nourishment, where everyone is taken care of as a result of the correct re-alignment of human relations.  Otherwise, knowledge for power’s sake is merely “Satanic” i.e. exclusive service to self.

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Reality Change II: “Hope for the best, Prepare for the Worst.”

“Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.”

– ‘Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies’

***

“Don’t trust the banks. Most are bankrupt. Don’t put your gold and silver coins in the safe deposit box. Keep them at home and keep them secret. Don’t keep more cash in the bank than is necessary to cover about a month’s worth of bills. This is a flashing red alert. Many tens of thousands of people who have their trust in the government system (U.S. currency) are headed dead ahead into impoverishment.”

– Bob Livingston, Personal Liberty Digest


Not a pretty picture.

The above nebulous language introduced in recently amended regulations in the US code of military operations on domestic soil conveniently skipped over what these “activities” would be in order to quell civil disturbances. What it does do is give the US military carte blanche to do as they please in such a scenario which won’t exactly reassure American citizens that they are safe. Indeed, it suggests that the only “unexpected” thing here is just what the US military has planned in the face of the inevitable break down in social “order.” And when we factor in all kinds of natural disasters on the horizon you can understand why so many folks are leaving cities with high density populations and even leaving the country completely.

Not all of the disaster events in the last post will occur but since the main points on this list was first compiled in 2011, we are already seeing some of these scenarios playing out. And who knows? They may all arrive within a year… It really is a case of “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” as some bright spark once said …

Returning to our Machiavellian friend and insider Zbigniew Brzezinski, this man has had his finger on the pulse between pathocrat and the global public for several decades. Driven by an irrational and all-consuming hatred of Russia, Brzezinski is a master tactician and highly astute at deciphering the many possible futures currently jostling for supremacy.  If he is worried about the scope and depth of changes taking place, then you can be fairly certain he’ll telegraph his concerns to the pathocratic faithful so that contingencies can be updated.

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Artists of Entropy

By M.K. Styllinski

trash11


So, where does the power of art come into Official Culture?

The answer is that it is bound by the same strictures as anything else and thus largely funnelled into the narcissist’s and psychopath’s perception of art –  a commodity of mediocrity. That does not mean to say that “art is dead” or that there are no beautiful and inspiring works  available (though it could be said that the notion of what constitutes art is now very, VERY broad indeed) only that the potential of art – to heal, communicate truth, to initiate change, to emancipate and to even act as a spiritual and emotional conduit – is generally absent from our daily lives.  Art could be so much more.

Creativity could be said to be the furnace in which the highest aspirations of human endeavour are forged. Without creativity life is stale, joyless and bland. By extension, art has come to represent something quite different in our “civilised” societies about which we are so proud.  This is best illustrated by art critics who seem to able to turn anything into a marketable cause whilst maintaining the veil of seeming profundity, even when there is an obvious lack of any merit, artistic or otherwise. For instance: “The photographs of Ulf Lundin are almost entirely devoid of visual interest … it is … their very mediocrity, their monotony, and their emptiness that attracts us.” [1] No offence to Lundin’s art but this critic believes that mediocrity is attractive and sustains us, even sets us free.

This is the point we have got to in much broader terms: the attraction to mediocrity and monotony. And this is distinctly different to highlighting a hidden beauty in the seemingly pedestrian. For some, this kind of abstraction is not a black narcissistic hole but an essential truth. Yet to say such things, is to be accused of being a philistine, where the nuances of the artist’s vision have yet to be appreciated. Perhaps this is true and the problem is simply one of art history and intellectual rigour?

What is artistic merit anyway? Is it just a subjective, personal acquisition that can never be pinned down?  Or does true art transcend entirely the whole concept of an individual artist hanging his photo or painting in a gallery and thus his own ego?


“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”

~ Pablo Picasso


We can go to a gallery and see the latest conceptual masterpiece from an acclaimed artist for whom the placing of a pile of washing on the floor or tea-cup on a table means an artistic statement. We might view it this way: If we are unwilling to see that this self-proclaimed “artist” is forcing us to do 90 percent of the intellectual effort in order to vindicate what is frequently a money-led consensus of intellectually-focused unoriginality, then no matter how well intentioned, we are buying into the gullibility that keeps the greasy wheels of market-led art inexorably turning. It seems to be a case of “art for art’s sake” rather than “art for life’s sake.”

Perhaps “Art” back through history had a different role rather than today’s reflection of viral self-importance?

In the ancient past, art was once the creative “glue” that gave meaning and a sense of the sacred to communities still living a harsh but closer existence to nature. Now, the disconnection from the natural world has left us devoid of meaning and psycho-spiritual knowledge; where the application of practical skills which were both an art and a function are lost in virtuality and urban chic.  The SMART human has largely embraced the march toward a post-modern, narcissistic assurance; the scientific dogma and shellac of New Age philosophies has further replaced the prospect of learning from genuine ancient wisdom which must be applied creatively to be truly understood.

The above may seem like a tree-hugging cliché, but there is truth to it. Don’t you get the feeling that art is simply regurgitating  reproductions of endless self-expressions for the market place? And digital technology has made this conveyor belt even quicker and more instantaneous.


“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”

~ Aristotle


Nowadays, concepts of art often lie very much in the realm of the intellect where the viewer must do much of the work for the artist by imbuing it with meaning due to a paucity of talent and creativity. Is it merely a lack of education regarding the nature of art or has the practical relevance of art simply ceased to exist because it has … lost its soul?

“Police on Friday removed the corpse of a man believed to have hanged himself at least a year ago after builders and students at Budapest’s University of Arts had initially mistaken it for a modern sculpture.” [2]

Or, over to the dustmen in Frankfurt, Germany:

“… they were a mess that needed to be cleared from the streets of their spotless city. The yellow plastic sheets were swiftly scooped up, crushed and burned. But the diligence of the rubbish collectors was little consolation to the city’s prestigious art academy, which is now ruing the loss of an important work. Unknown to the binmen, the sheets were part of a city-wide exhibition of modern sculpture by Michael Beutler, a graduate of Frankfurt’s Städel art school. Thirty of the dustmen are now being sent to modern art classes to try to ensure that the same mistake never happens again.” [3]

Although this example is humorous it is also a tragic representation of a class and cultural schism. Perhaps we can see in the above just how de-linked and disassociated art has become from the values and meaning of everyday life. Again, what relevance does art have in the world today compared to its potential that lays waiting in the shadows, tied to our perceptions and the current materialist paradigm?

If human beings have a natural propensity for aesthetic behaviour or creative play [4] then there is a well spring of action that can be constructive and useful that naturally benefits the “organism” as a whole, rather than the strictly humanist, individualistic force of the past several hundred years. Without wishing to paint an overly romantic picture, it is true to say that many of the indigenous peoples of the world had a natural culture that was both creative and meaningful even while daily existence may have been often challenging. Craftsmanship was extraordinarily refined and intimately bound into the life of the tribe or community. In many ancient and indigenous cultures such as the Maoris, and the Eskimo tribes of the Inuit they confirm the Indian idea from ancient Sanskrit writings that there was no word for “art” precisely because the idea that artistic endeavour could be separated from life was non-sensical.


“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

~ Pablo Picasso


In over a thousand languages spoken in Africa there is also no word for art.  There are no separate words for “create” or “make” nor is there a separation between right action and daily activity that is by their nature, an expression of a “divine art.” “Participation” is often the essential prerequisite for artistic endeavour where every action means something; every dance, every pot and ear-ring and temple. In the Western alchemical tradition the real art was the transformation of base metals into gold, the rebirth of the self – the true artisan.

In the words of Alistair Shearer:

As an individual, the artist does not consider himself fundamentally different from or opposed to society at large; he is the limb of the body, a cell of the organism, acting as a single entity yet inextricably part of the indivisible and organic whole… Stable in this identity his role is to transmit those forms which preserve and continue the inherited structures and beliefs of his society; his brief is conservative not innovative, social as opposed to individual, educative rather than diverting. His concern is not to invent new forms, but to rekindle the vitality latent in the ancient ones. [5]

At the present time we have turned away from the signposts of the past and become consumers rather than participants. Wal-mart, Nike or the Universal symbol of the Tao – it’s all the same. From religious iconography to esoteric symbols and mandalas, all have been subsumed into the continuum of market pop re-made to suit the less than altruistic intentions and actions behind them. We can say that now in the information age of manipulation anyone can produce “art,” and the reality of this possibility is flooding the market-consciousness. Everyone can make music in their bedroom and engineer sounds and samples from past musicians to create copies of copies of copies. Musicians can now engineer and paste whole samples of another’s work into their own if they so wish. In fact, one need not study music at all. If we do not have the ability or will to learn an instrument technology gives you the freedom to do it all for you. All we need to do is engineer sound where the elemental nature of the piano, guitar and drum or any other crafted instrument is now a graphic in a programme suitably distanced and perfectly conceptualised with polished realism and digital satisfaction.

Similarly, we can make digitised pictures and create virtual worlds of beauty and grandeur even if they seem to lack the soul of organic influence. We can all divest ourselves of a thousand meanings and project them into the outer world, exorcise our demons and “self-express.” Now everyone can dance until the sun goes down on diversity and creation as it fast becomes a bland monotony where every sampled beat sounds the same; where the ecstasy of dance is cut off from sacred meaning and still ensconced in an urban environment of a cultural dystopia.

A harsh, simplistic indictment of art in the “21st century?

Perhaps it’s more about our perceptions which give rise to what we consider to be art. It is indeed true that we humans have produced astonishingly beautiful and awe-inspiring examples of artistic vision so often tied to religious and devotional ecstasy or some form of spiritual yearning. Yet, as with all human endeavour it depends entirely on how this sexual / creative impulse is filtered into the material world. For instance, psychopaths do not have a creative bone in their body. They are mimics and masters of lies. So when pathological constructs begin to dominate societies then we will inevitably see its reflection in art and the methods by which it is produced. The difficulty comes between distinguishing the line between the real messengers that impart truth and those that merely regurgitate dead forms. Each will have its effect on the consciousness of the observer.


“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.”

~Woody Allen


Indeed, art and post-modern intellectual escapism seems to offer a unique possibility for those with serious pathologies to mimic attempts at creativity and pass it off as art for the public. When the psychopath or pathological narcissist is cut off from emotion and the fact that s/he cannot truly share, the world of art delivers self-aggrandisement and instant “specialness”; a natural environment in which he can foster his aloofness: the lone and misunderstood artist forging new and original visions… If his “originality” pushes new barriers of sensation and shock he can subsume his psychological issues into a protective facade of superior intellect and convince himself that his disdain for natural human interests comes from an elevated vision. Such “Art” like many of its offshoots, becomes a substitute for life itself. All this is willingly catered for in the art world should the artist hit on a suitable vehicle for his “self-expression” and the market in which it is best suited.

In a pathological world slipping into SMART society’s version of a digitized art this new media lends itself to the common denominator of the times. A “community producing great art…does so, not by its ‘love of art’ but by its ‘love of life’.” [6] Therefore, if art has no intrinsic relation to our lives where an accessibility of concepts is absent as well as the functional and practical appliance of art that is life, then can a process of true creativity be born? If pathological currents dominating Western societies have no ability to truly create it is logical that they should supplant an authentic cultural diversity with fake ideas bereft of an emotional connection though heavy on intellectual visions which we are obligated to furnish – the Emperor’s clothes with a paintbrush and keyboard. Since a culture dominated by pathology will naturally determine the quality, accessibility and visibility of that creativity surely it is inevitable that those who function as their designated artists in such a culture will merely be reproducing what is deemed an acceptable expression of that pathology?

The above brief description of contemporary art is purposely a somewhat generalised critique on the impressions that inform so vast a field. The reader will hopefully understand the contextual point being made. Perhaps the task of societies today is to see that the richness of creative artistry can be disbursed across a collective network of individuals rather than being focused in any single person; where unchanging principles and fluid generational skills are oriented towards permanent truths that can also bring forth our individual and collective potential. Once art has ceased to be seen as a commodity to be seen in a gallery or critiqued by those who are “in the know” then perhaps some measure of artistry can begin to be seeded in us all and translates into society as living art-fully. Art can become an expression of the artistry within rather than merely a form of self-importance or therapy without.

From the Industrial Revolution art has devolved into something very different to what could tentatively said to be its original purpose: to activate self-knowledge at the deepest level, to offer a fusion of community and practical skills where beauty and functionality sit side by side, and this as a result of a process of creativity which is defined by love. The power and quality of that unsentimental love which is rises up through the act of creation will define how well it reaches into the observer, to the extent it stimulates many and varied relationships from that process. In this way art cannot be separated from anything that truly creates and which has the promise of binding relationships which can for example,  form communities of thought which are self-sustaining within the whole.

Art then is a living process with tangible results dependent on the creator’s quality of consciousness.


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

~ Edgar Degas


Perhaps only the re-enchantment of Western societies can re-define art as liberator and healer, messenger and enabler. As we shall see, the general state of art will give us a broad mirror to understand what is going inside the collective mind of humanity just like any other domain. From there we will be able to tell how well the creative, artistic impulse is contributing to the advancement of human potential or merely a lifeless product.

Take an honest look on that score. What do we see?

It means that there is a battle between what Irish artist Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin calls a “socially conscious art” and market conformity which parrots what has gone before and what market fashion demands; closing the window on the opportunity for art to inform and engage in ways that go beyond cultural constraints. That is not to say that art must direct itself to any one form of communication only that it MUST be authentic ans sincere for it to truly called “art;” where the pain and/or joy of the inner world is fused with the corporeal.  When socially conscious art speaks to the collective conscience producing emotional sparks of connection – that is when we the pain and imagery truly binds us, and we realise just how interrelated we really are. This is when art lives through us by binding us together in co-linear efforts to actualise conscience, the very process and fruits of which make life itself a living work of art.

Erich Fromm had this to say about our predicament and those who feel that there is nothing “normal” at all in the current state of society:

“A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet ‘for sale’, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his ‘normal’ contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity, his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.”

This sense of isolation and “insanity” when comparing ourselves to the normalised pathology in which we are all immersed is the first step in curing ourselves and gaining a centre of authenticity.  This healing is an ambitious project and remains an individual destiny, but the successes we have as we undertake to understand our emotional life will have powerful effects upon the whole. This is the awakening that lies before us and a tantalising first step in opening the door to our dormant creativity across all domains. Mediocrity and conformity will then be seen for what they are: the symptoms of a social illness reacting to the imposition of anti-human demands. It is then that Official Culture will crumble and its authority seen for what it is: an illusion propagated by a minority that live in a psychological abyss.

It will be our choice as to whether we decide to join them.

See  also:

Sick Modern ‘Art’ Depicting Bestiality Installed Near Paris Louvre

Corruption of Art: I am sick of pretending – I don’t “get” art

Why the art world’s raging narcissism epidemic is killing art

Latest Atrocities in Modern Art

 


Notes
[1] John Tozer, Art Monthly February 1999.
[2] ‘Hanging Corpse Admired as Sculpture on Campus’ China Daily, November 15th 2003.
[3] ‘Back to school for binmen who thought modern art was a load of old rubbish’ Ben Aris in Berlin, The Guardian. January 13, 2005.
[4] Homo Aestheticus: Where Art comes from and Why by Ellen Dissanayake, The Free Press, 1992.
[5] p.8; The Hindu Vision Forms of the Formless (Art & Imagination) By Alistair Shearer Thames & Hudson 1993 | ISBN-10: 0500810435.

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