"There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject's sake, and those who write for writing's sake [or for the sake of money]. The truth is that when an author begins to write for the sake of covering paper, he is cheating the reader; because he writes under the pretext that he has something to say" - A. Schopenhauer.
Okay, I will wax philosophically. I saw early on in my reading and general observation of man, that so-called ‘professionals’ were encaged the moment they hung their degree/s on the office wall …The only truly interesting lives I read about did a lot of bouncing from this to that and never looked back …Over the years I learned that for me to have even a modicum of satisfaction out of my existence I would have to exist idea-to-idea …Later, I learned that the attraction was actually inhabiting the idea - existing mostly inside it - that I, as a person, a being, really didn’t matter at all (save to a few). What mattered was my idea/s …and the idea/s had to be mine or nothing mattered in the final accounting. I decided in my mid-20s that I would be a servant of my idea/s and not Corporate America. I also decided not to allow myself to be categorized. Ever!
“So, I 'invent' things if my idea is about a new product (youpacktoilet.com) …I make movies, if my idea is about a movie or requires a movie …I’ve written books because I had something to say about a subject that I felt had commonality and was useful to my fellow …But I’m not an 'inventor,' a 'filmmaker,' or a 'writer.' I don’t want to be anything …I just want to be inside my idea and ride it out into the world. That, I claim, is THE existential journey. Again, no person matters. What matters is the idea/s that emerge from them. If none emerge, a person is merely taking up space (and that's how they feel). A human being is an idea that gets ideas. I’ve lost jobs, financings, contracts too many to have kept count, because I felt myself entering a cage. I was the leopard walking back and forth inside a cage - exactly as in Rilke’s poem The Leopard. I resisted all categorization and that drove a lot of folk with whom I had 'dealings' apoplectic. ‘We need a this or a that’ - not me - and I would walk. There is a great deal of suffering - usually financial - existing this way …but at the same time, one’s dignity, one's identity, holds steady.
“A person who can be placed in a category is manageable, controllable, predictable. Warning: those that stay ‘outside’ categorization create an unstable environment for those inside because they appear unmanageable …But whatever ‘freedom’ exists for anyone on this planet - at this time in history - exist only inside those with this exact existential strategy. From infancy, everyone continues to surrender - year-after-year - until there is nothing left to surrender.
“The notion of an afterlife is attractive because this life gets so torn up, so brutalized, becomes so full of lost expectations, dissatisfactions, so empty of meaning, one is easily convinced that ‘the next one will include them in the satisfaction awards ceremony.’ It took years to come to realize that the world has to be exactly as it is, that life, or better one’s existence, has to be full of emptiness, fears, aloneness, and meaninglessness, and that the only way to gain the slightest satisfaction and meaning must be created in the midst all the messiness, corruption, etc. “I must Create my own System or be enslav’d by another Man’s” said William Blake. There are no other choices. So, Blake ‘leapt naked into the world …” his mother weeping, his father railing in the background, each trying to control his existence in their own way. The Blakean message is clear: we must be willing to leave behind everything, or face the prospect of being encaged for life.
As the poet Rumi wrote (more than 700 years ago): “Today, like every other day, we get up empty, afraid, and alone ...The closest to us is at a great distance …” We literally have to put ourselves together [again] every single day. We rely completely on our memory (short and long term) to achieve that. Then the fears flood in …hundreds of them. And when we face the mirror, we’re all too aware that we’re alone in the midst of billions of fellows who are also alone. ‘The closest is at a great distance.’ We have no idea how far apart we are from the closest person we know. Yet the ordinary person clings to his family members, his friends, his buddies, his team, his job, his retirement package, clinging to them as if a lifeline tossed to them in an endless violent storm at sea. One’s insecurities determining every decision, every claim, every move.
"I claim whether life on earth is the result of evolutionary processes or special creation is irrelevant: existence is messy, messed up, meaningless, regardless. In that sense, everyone is ‘created equal.’ Upon learning they will die (usually between age 5 or 6 when they become conscious of an inner potentiality that is separate from the outer world’s reality), a child becomes vulnerable to all ‘offers.’
The Existentialists say “life is absurd.” And it is. I claim it must be exactly like it is, if there is to be the slightest chance of one ‘becoming a reasonably fulfilled individual’ during one's lifetime. If 'everything is in God's hands,' then we are encaged by God. Humans have but one innate power, the power to imagine (that which has never existed). All other powers are external and produce most of the violence and unrest on earth. The child’s innate imaginative play is made inert by schooling. Either one breaks from the ‘social conditioning’ - as in the Blakean model - or one is made a ‘unit’ of a tribe, state, or nation - for life - which is the purpose of all schooling (regardless of its form).
"The Oriental expression: “from the mud grows the lotus” is apropos. In short, we are all in some herd of people for life, the mud, (tribe, state, nation) unless we break from it by leaping 'naked' (that is unprepared, unready) into one of our ideas and letting that idea take us wherever we must go in order to bring it forth into the world. Trying to do both - pursue an idea while clinging to a branch of the tribal tree - produces a zero sum result: nothing changes. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” wrote Mary Helen Keller (who became both blind and deaf as a child). Indeed, risk is part and parcel of the process of becoming an individual being. One must risk failure to create 'success' (from ‘succession’ meaning to advance, ‘accomplishment of a desired end’ which is another definition for the phrase 'relative freedom' and 'interdependent existence' - which is a synonym for the term 'individual.'
"There is no such thing as ‘total freedom.’ All actions, all behavior, is modified by social forces. As long as there is 'the other' there will be nothing beyond a modicum of 'freedom.' The question is: “to what degree is it modified?” There is only the full freedom to imagine that which has never existed before (please ignore the proverb: ‘There is nothing new under the sun’).
Regarding the notion of ‘self,’ we must revisit the old conclusions regarding the meaning of ‘self’ - with the objective of seeing past them and reaching out to new definitions that are more in harmony with the new awarenesses regarding the ‘self.’ Carl Jung believed the ‘self’ was an archetype of some coherent whole. The ‘self’ - to him - is only realized as a ‘product of individuation.’ Jung felt one had to individualize one’s personality to achieve this state. I claim one’s personality (we have dozens) makes us different, but not an individual as in the sense of an essential being. One can be quite different, yet as bound to the tribe as a limb to a tree trunk. Unless one inhabits (literally exists inside one’s idea/s) one will never experience the realization of being a ‘self’ apart from the other. Again, an individual with an established essential being. The idea itself becomes the essence of a person’s being. And once the idea appears in the world, that result alone (or the sum of such results) is how one will be remembered.
The entire notion of ‘the self’ is confused with the development of 'personality' or 'the persona' (Greek for a mask with a hole in it to speak through). 'A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others,' defines not 'self' but personality. There is no evidence whatsoever that a child has an ‘essential being’ nor do they naturally grow one. The philosopher John Locke wrote that ‘one begins as an empty slate’ (using the Latin phrase ‘tabula rasa’). In short, one must create a ‘self’ apart from one’s personality, or exist without one. The dictionaries struggle mightily to define such words as ‘self’ ‘mind’ ‘soul’ etc., since there is nothing to see to describe. Such words are gossamers (‘a fine, filmy substance consisting of cobwebs …’). Such words are handed down generationally and their meanings continue to remain elusive, fuzzy, filmy.
"The single insight in my life I claim is original, is that one must inhabit one’s ideas (literally be inside them), or one is swept away by thousands of social forces, mostly in the form of traditional fears. “Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come” wrote Hugo (Les Miserable). I’ve existed idea-to-idea for most of my life. Yes, I’ve taken jobs from time to time so as to pay the rent, eat, make car payments, etc. But for most of my 84 years
(2018), I’ve existed inside one of my own ideas. I refer to this state as ‘the Primary World’ and the world state we all share as ‘the Secondary World.’ Again, every child is born empty, afraid, alone, and meaningless. We can never transcend our emptiness, fears, or aloneness. But we can ‘pave over’ those conditions (I use that phrase because anyone can see something being paved over) with an idea. And in the paving over process we can actually feel the influence of the fears that once overwhelmed us wane.
"A child is born into a ‘readymade’ world. 1,000 social forces go to work on every child the moment it appears. To control, manage, manipulate populations requires a certain ‘conditioning.’ This is achieved through ‘schooling’ (in all its permutations). East and West, every child is schooled to move along the curriculum - the complex agenda of the state. Schools have nothing to do with ‘education.’ The word ‘educe’ (from which we get the word education) means ‘to draw out.’ Seduce means to ‘be led astray’ - in this case from one’s own pursuit of individuality. Schools produce herd behavior, cultural artifacts, a controllable, manipulable, populace. Education only occurs inside a person and is driven by the desire for ‘self-discovery,’ or better ‘the development of a self,’ which must be created.
"To tackle the reality of being born empty, fearful, alone, and without meaning, is no small existential challenge. Most, as Blake and many others have written (including Thoreau) existed/exist as slaves, serfs, in service, or employed (historian Will Durant estimates 9 out of 10 people existed/exist as slaves - in all the permutations of human enslavement). In each case, a person is given work. Few in the whole of history have engaged in their own work. Yet that is exactly what one must do if one is to ‘pave over’ one’s emptiness, fears, aloneness, and meaningless-ness. That is what one must do to experience genuine individuality. Each child is born to be an individual.
"All of my books (even the novels) are explorations, or probes (as McLuhan might call them), into the admixture that is the best way to exist in a messy, meaningless, violent, world. To simply wait for something better to happen to one is to accept a non-existence. Everyone dreams about two hours every night ...If one exists until age 84, one has dreamed for 7 of those 84 years. By comparison one eats for about 3 of those years. We must stop forgetting our dreams ...We must stop ignoring the extraordinary power of the unconscious - which pours content into our consciousness every single night. Without ideas one is left to wallow in one's base impulses, appetites, longings unfulfilled, or worse (perhaps) the impulses and appetites of one's fellow: wars, debauchery, uselessness.
Francis Bacon answered the question about why humans have the capacity to imagine )that which has never existed before) - some 400 years ago: “Man was given an imagination to compensate him for what he is not, a sense of humor to console him for what he is” (my emphasis). There is no other way to compensate one for what one is not other than through an idea that originates within. "I must Create my own System, or be enslav'd in another Man's" became Blake's modus operandi. Which, again, brings us face-to-face with the idea. Everyone gets ideas. Few act upon them. Thus few compensate themselves for what they are not, and exist enslaved to another man throughout their lives.
Pursuing one's ideas is work ...hard work - which today is avoided at all costs. Long hours are a given. For ideas never come fully formed. Rather, one gets glimpses of shapes, colors, patterns, storylines, the usefulness of a thing, etc., and either pursues them or not. The majority do not. And so, as Thoreau said: 'The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." The ordinary person is depressed, dissatisfied, disconnected from any sort of genuine 'essence of being' and can only pursue entertainments, time-enclosures, pleasures, we are amusing ourselves to death ...As the great designer Milton Glaser wrote: 'Art is life, life is work, work is art." 'Art' is what you make up.