Living Wrong

I hate cobwebs. I don’t like seeing them in the corners of my house or on my things. When I see them I will try and annihilate them.

This Person whom I am writing about does not do anything about the cobwebs. This Person lets the cobwebs grow everywhere, either not seeing them or not caring about them. Maybe This Person just expects someone else to take care of the hard work. This Person would let his/her entire house become one large cobweb and then maybe This Person might act to get rid of the cobwebs. But not before.

This Person is many people. Maybe you know This Person or someone like This Person. A person, who in your mind, is living wrong.

Obviously, This Person would disagree with all that I am writing here because the only way that This Person can remain This Person is through a continual defensive reflex. If they were not always defending themselves, they would have to change.

This person seems not to care about refining any sensibilities. Intellectual, aesthetic, environmental, political. Developing any or all of these sensibilities does not seem to appeal to This Person. Developing sensibilities takes hard work. A person has to remain curious and continually seek out challenging information and knowledge. They have to continually put themselves in uncomfortable situations. This Person prefers easy entertainment, comfort and simple distractions. Things that do not ask too much of them.

The artist Chuck Close said, “Whenever you reach a fork in the road, take the most difficult route because everybody else is going to be taking the easy route.” This Person always takes the easier route, thus never really distinguishing themselves in any one thing.

This Person is content being ok at things. Not bad, not great. Just ok. This Person does what they need to do to be good or ok at things and nothing more. This Person does not like hard work. This Person starts many things but struggles to stay engaged if it is too hard. Like I said This Person prefers what is easy. Simple distractions, sleep, hanging out, work if they must, doing what others force them to do but what they would rather not do (clean house, pay bills, clean car, take care of themselves, etc…)

This Person is not that driven to do much unless it is easy. This Person prefers to do the bare minimum to get by. They will work but not more than necessary. Sometimes they will have a burst of energy and get really into something, but it will not last unless the something is easy.

I can not help but think this is living wrong. In my mind it is important to excel at things. It is important to work hard at things that interest you. It is important to cultivate sensibilities and challenge yourself. It is important to develop your intellect. To put yourself in situations where you have to continually push yourself to do what is not easy. This is what it means to thrive.

Humans are like slabs of stone. As we grow we carve away at these stones creating shape and texture. Most people’s stones look ugly, lazy, basic and very unfinished. Most stones all look the same in this way. For most people carving the stone is just too hard and they give up, barely working on it anymore past the age of 45. A lot of people expect other people to carve their stone for them. They don’t want to do the work. To have a stone that looks distinguished, unique, one of a kind and has a beautiful shape- takes continual effort. You have to work hard on it for a bit everyday.

Even if it means maintaining a beautiful living environment. It is important to continually keep things in their right place. To not grow lazy with the care of your home. Once you let your home go and become comfortable with cobwebs everywhere, how can a person excel at anything in life? A person’s living environment and the care they take of it determines the degree to which they will be able to live right.

If This Person has the ways they are living all wrong pointed out to them they become immediately defensive and withdraw further into incapacitation. If you point out to This Person that they do not exercise, that they would benefit from being more physically active- this person will withdraw into more sedentariness. If you point out to This Person that they should challenge themselves more intellectually, they will read less intellectually challenging things. It is an unconscious and reflexive behavior.

Pointing out to This Person how they are living wrong is a battle that can not be won. All a person can do is accept that This Person is just not interested much in pushing themselves right now, in refining themselves, in differentiating themselves from the mass of people who take the easier route. A person can just pick up the slack where they can, continue to take the harder route within themselves and not worry about This Person who is living wrong.

Everyone is free to live their life in a way they feel is right. Maybe This Person thinks that I am living wrong.

Who am I to say that This Person is living wrong? Maybe they are living right! Maybe life is a meaningless experience and all of our efforts to refine and distinguish ourselves are ultimately all for nothing? Maybe if we could just learn to care less, let ourselves go a bit more, not care about the cobwebs that will continue to grow no matter how hard we try to get rid of them- maybe then we could have a happier life? Maybe the harder route isn’t that great after all.

Who am I to say? All I can do is live in a way that feels right for me and try not to force This Person away from living wrong. The moment I push, force, encourage or try and motivate This Person to move in a different direction is usually the moment I start living wrong.

Take Care Of Yourself! A Conversation.

Why can’t you take care of yourself?

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

You don’t know how to take care of yourself!

Why do you say that?

Because you don’t! You sit around. You let things go. You withdraw into books. You are struggling in your work. You struggle to exercise and get outside in the sun. You are unfulfilled and feel stuck in your life but still you do nothing!

I think you are being a bit critical. I do things.

You do the bare minimum just to get by.

Really?

Yes, and then you expect others to pick up the slack. To take care of the things you don’t want to take care of. To take care of you.

I don’t know about this. I have a business where I help others every day.

Yes, but you are a fraud. You are no better than your clients. You are trying to get well or to manage, just as they are. I do not think you are fit to serve. Just like you need to be fit to run a marathon you need to be fit to serve. Maybe the reason why your job does not make you happy is because you are running in a marathon without being in good shape?

I have not thought of it like that. I think I am fit to serve because I am trying to be a better person every day. I am trying to more effectively deal with the crap I have inherited from my parents- my past conditioning. I am trying to manage it more effectively so it does not make me a miserable person. This continual effort I think makes me fit to serve.

Maybe. You have part of the equation correct but you are still unwilling to do things that would make you happier and healthier in life.

What do you mean?

What do you mean?

What?

You don’t want to take charge. You don’t want to cut the bullshit. You don’t want to stop staying stuck. You don’t want to do the hard work that it would take to change things for the better. You don’t want to push yourself.

Maybe. But I do what I can. I try.

Yes, but this is not enough. You are just staying stuck in the convenience of habit. You are not willing to change and so you make do with what is. This is bullshit! Push yourself man. Do not be so fearful of hard work!

Maybe it is about accepting what is. Maybe it is about not trying to change anything but instead just making peace with what is? Maybe the reason why humans are so fucked up is because we are not able to just make peace with things as they are? We are very critical of ourselves and others and think things should be how we think they should be. Maybe when we become really critical it does not actually motivate change but instead creates more depression and unhappiness. I think you may be going about it the wrong way.

You are saying that it is about accepting things as they are? Accepting your lack of motivation. Accepting that you do what you can (which, by the way is never enough), accepting that you can’t really get things done, accepting that you have a hard time taking care of yourself? You are basically saying just accept that the garden is not being taken care of and let it stay in its disheveled and dried out state?

I suppose I am saying do what you can and accept that. Maybe a person is not meant to have a beautiful garden because they, for whatever reason, are not able to devote the time and energy needed. In this case the person needs to be able to accept that they have a garden that is not perfect. That is partially dried out. That it is not much tended to. Such is life. What I am saying is that in just accepting things as they are, even though they may not be desirable, it releases a person from all the stress and unhappiness that comes up as a result of trying to fix and change things and thinking things are not good enough. Maybe change happens through accepting what is.

I don’t know man. I think this is the greatest act of rationalizing one’s own illogical bullshit that I have ever heard. I think you are just perpetuating the status quo. You are just trying to accept the status quo. Anyone who is great never got anywhere with the perspective you are articulating. No one has ever mastered anything or become really skilled and successful thinking like that. That train of thought will get you nowhere besides right where you are which is struggling to take care of yourself.

I understand this. But maybe my work is in accepting that I will not be that person who is great, masterful and successful and super productive. That that is not who I am. This is just not in the deck of cards for me. Perhaps happiness for me is in accepting that this is just not who I am.

But you have talent. You have potential. You could do whatever you want. You could be great. You could have a beautiful garden if you pushed yourself more.

Maybe so, but maybe I am just not that kind of person. Maybe I am more fated to live an imperfect life. A life of slowness or no great achievements. Maybe I am just going to be average. Maybe I am going to need help along the way. Maybe I am just that kind of person.

And you are ok with this? You really want to accept this?

I see no other way if I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life.

Bullshit man. You know this is bullshit. You just don’t want to do the hard work.

Maybe so. I don’t remember ever being a fan of hard work.

Ok. There is no making sense with you. You are not getting it. You want to keep sitting on your ass and just let all the potential in your life go- go ahead. You want others to take care of you. You don’t want to deal with the hard stuff. Ok. Fuck it. I am not getting anywhere with you.

You know, what? I don’t like how you are talking to me. I think this conversation is done.

Casey Neistat, YouTube and The Decline of Art

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Casey Neistat.

Have you heard of this guy?

If not, you should check him out for a few reasons.

First reason, because he is a creative genius. The independently created, daily video blogs he made (and still makes) for several years are genius.

Second reason, because he is revolutionizing (innovating) the technological landscape in which all of us live now, single handily. It would not be a far stretch to call him the second coming of Steve Jobs.

Third, because he is a very inspiring human being.

And finally, because he could be contributing to the decline of art (unintentionally of course).

A few weeks ago, I did not know who Casey Neistat was. How is it that I am so behind on what is really contemporary and what is shaping the world in which I live? How is it that I am so asleep at the wheel with regards to what is cutting edge? I will try and answer these questions in a moment. But first….

Someone whom I respect told me that I should check out this guy by the name of Casey Neistat’s Youtube channel. So I did and thus began a week of being completely immersed in most of the video blogs Casey has created. My wife started to addictively watch as well and suddenly we were happily immersed in Casey Neistat’s world.

Now, I don’t want this to come off as a negative critique of Casey Neistat. I don’t know him personally but I really like the guy. He is someone whom I would want to be friends with. He is a freak, with a brilliant and kind mind and I respect that. But as an artist, I am concerned about how an inspiring person like Casey Neistat, who reaches a tremendous number of young people, could cause the state of art to really take a nose dive.

Casey has a tremendous amount of energy. As an older man (45 years old) I envy his immense and unstoppable energy. Who knows what I could accomplish if I had twenty five percent, hell ten percent of the energy he has. Ever since my wife and I started watching his videos, we have felt more motivated to do things. We have been getting off our lazy asses more. We have been accomplishing more. We have been busier, healthier and have taken care of many of the things we procrastinated on for years. But we have also read less, listened to music less and just hung out in our lives less. As artists, is this a good thing?

 

You see, there is an art to lingering. Doing nothing is a very important part of being an artist. Without doing nothing for long periods of time, the quality of the work will suffer. I know that Casey Neistat thinks it is a good thing to stay busy all the fucking time. I know that he thinks free time and relaxation are detrimental to a productive life, but these things are essential for the creation of a work of art which has depth and quality.

Being busy all the time works for Casey because he is a creative genius, not an artist. I fear what will happen to the quality of art if too many artists think that staying busy is a good thing. I fear that art will lose depth.

Artists linger and dwell in moments. Artists procrastinate on getting things done so they can spend more time dwelling in moments. This is an essential ingredient in any work of art that has depth. What was it that Gertrud Stein said? Something like an artist must spend ninety percent of their time doing nothing so that ten percent of their time can be spent making good art (I am paraphrasing).

Artists absorb experience and let these experiences percolate just under the surface. Their experiences often need a long period of gestation in order to turn into a work of art which stands on its own and has depth.

Steve Jobs was a creative genius but he was not an artist. In the same way Casey Neistat is a creative genius but he is not an artist. Casey has these daily bursts of inspiration that get pumped out and put into the world (as creative geniuses often do) rather than deep, lingering acts of creation (which, is what art is). Maybe all of Casey Neistat’s work as a whole can be looked at as a single art piece. Maybe the collected life of Casey Neistat will ultimately be his work of art.

Art makes us feel something on a very deep level. It reminds us of the historical aspects of ourselves. Casey Neistat is a genius but there is a difference between Casey Neistat and say artists like Joan Miro, Duchamp, Richard Brautigan, Stanley Kubrick, Kafka, Rothko and on and on and on.

 

There is no doubt that Casey Neistat’s legacy will be himself as a person. What will live beyond his death is the video blog and businesses that he created. But not one of his works (say an individual video blog) will stand out on its own. His work as a whole is genius but he will not be remembered in the same way we remember the individual works of artists.

An artist is known for the work itself. Half of the works of art that I love, I have no idea about their creator. With art, the work stands on its own. The work of art unto itself is enough. Casey Neistat will be remembered for his character, as the person he is and as a brilliant entrepreneur. His video blog is very much about the person. It is a part of his business or businesses. He basically runs a self-made video, entertainment business empire. But it is not art.

Art should not always be boring but it should not always seek to be entertaining also. Reading Infinite Jest, the reader is coming in direct contact with a very deep work of art. But at many points in the book it is hard work to keep reading. It is not entertaining at all. It is often tedious. If art is entertaining all the time, I don’t think we could call it art.

After watching a lot of Casey’s videos, I am left with the memory of him. His energy, his philosophy and his fervor for work have really inspired my wife and I. We both love the guy. But I really do not remember any individual pieces of work (videos). Casey Neistat’s work exists in my mind as a whole rather than as individual parts. And as an artist it is the parts or the induvial works that are important, not the artist’s life as a whole (this is secondary, not primary).

I worry that too many artists will be inspired by someone like Casey Neistat and other brilliant productivity video bloggers. They might feel bad that they have been lingering around, spending too much time lost in their minds and not getting anything done. Nooooooooooooooooooo! Please don’t let this happen. As artists, you are doing exactly what you should be doing. Keep sitting around!

Artists need to be good at doing nothing. Artists need to be expert lingerers. Creative geniuses on the other hand need to be good at getting shit done. But for a great novel or painting to be created, that artist needs to spend a lot of time doing nothing. They need to swim down to the depths of their beings, down where it is often dark, murky and filled with existential pain. There is no way an artist can do this if they keep busy and are always being entertained.

To answer my two questions at the beginning of this essay, this is probably why I never heard of Casey Neistat up until a few weeks ago. I spend a lot of time outside of time and just sitting around. I may not be aware of what is cutting edge and contemporary but I think I have made a lot of art that has depth.

I am glad that there are brilliant, creative and energetic entrepreneurs like Casey Neistat out there in the world. We need them to counteract all the boring crap non-creative business people make. My hope is that business people like Casey Neistat will inspire other business people to stop making crap. This is a very positive thing and I am grateful to Casey for this. But if you are an artist please don’t get depressed and feel bad that you are not up at five in the morning running and then on the go all day, every day, everywhere. This would be detrimental to you and your work as an artist. If you were always busy, if you had no free time, you would not have the time to go deep within yourself and pull from these depths works of art that in the end, if good enough, inspire people like Casey to do what they do.

For all you artists out there, please- don’t just do something. Instead, sit there and settle down.