Friday, January 08, 2016


Think about it man, you get in traffic behind somebody. *Honks* *Honks* *Honks* *Honks* *Honks* *Honks* *Honks* *Honks*
Shut up and smoke that, it’s the law.
Oh, sorry. I was taking life seriously.
Is a relevant excerpt from a Bill Hicks rant on drugs. Every day (just about) I go to my studio and work furiously on drawings. Working furiously, is actually slowly and methodically, while watching TV shows on my tablet, but none the less, I generally do upwards of 5 hours a day at the moment. In fact I've figured out ways to more or less be working on art round the clock. Even at home, for which I'm now taking a break to write this post.

A rare privilege I have as I work away, is a very salient awareness that absolutely nobody is sweating on the output of my practice. The closest I come, is me. And should I die in my sleep tonight, at most the grieving stakeholders in my life would be inconvenienced by the unfinished work I leave behind.

Though I'm often impatient to leave for the studio, and reluctant to leave it for other commitments, I just can't feel stressed about the work I do. I could never convince myself that anybody was depending on it.

People enjoy my work, some even have a seemingly ravenous appetite for it. People have an insatiable lust for art and entertainment worldwide.

But it's easy for me to perceive a basic truth about the nature of what I do. Nobody is actually depending on it.

Then I re-watched Carpenter's 'Escape from New York' and the part of the premise I struggled most to suspend disbelief over, was accepting that the US President was vital enough to warrant Snake Pliskin's rescue effort. As compared to it's inferior sequel where the presidents' daughter steals a weapon to put in the hand of terrorists, I really can't see why the US President is regarded is indispensable.

And this leads to a fact I feel everyone should embrace. If you are currently reading this, it means that nobody that ever died, ever, was indispensable to our civilization.

I do not mean that individuals lives have no value, or that they are unimportant. Just that we can, and will take the hit of losing certain members.

What we shouldn't do, is maintain an illusion of importance. At least I don't feel so. I like to think of 'the stressed executive'. For me he is the driver of that car honking at the somebody in front of him. My particular favorite is the executive that works for a distributor of manufactured plastic garden hose attachments.

I know nothing about the industry, I don't need to. I can imagine that there are dominant players in the business, that move enough units through enough retailers, that their executives could drive Audi's or Mercedes and stress about Unit Sales, the threat of disruptive technologies, forecasting sales to meet production and shipping order deadlines etc.

I can see the person, that through the combination of limited promotion opportunities, mortgage stress and other economic pressures. Feels highly stressed about meeting some arbitrary sales target, achieving some bonus or landing some retail distribution deal.

This executive lives most of his/her days in a world populated by people that also think these things important but may have conflicting agendas.

Yet never in their lives will any of these people see a TV show in which there is a post-apocalyptic scenario caused by a worldwide scarcity of their product.

You and I, hopefully have the capacity to imagine that the world would indeed by inconvenient if we could never attach garden hoses again. Plastic attachments certainly have value, and though I would never describe myself as a gardener, or even somebody who plays under sprinklers in summer, I have experienced the inconvenience of a broken hose attachment in my life. I can envision a future where I buy these devices.

And my purchases in the marketplace send a signal to strangers to keep producing these things because people want them.

But I don't need them. A lot has to go wrong before I would truly bemoan the disappearance of this industry.

The storeowner (or increasingly, franchisee) that loses a sale due to being stocked out of a hose nozzle, that gets on the phone to blast his sales rep about their stock out, who kicks it up the line to the executive that sat in on the forecasting meeting that chose conservative figures based on a forecast of a wet summer three months prior, are all suffering from a collective illusion.

That these things matter is not the illusion. That they matter enough to get angry about is an illusion. Our lives are robust, as is our civilization. Much of what has made it so is a lot of inherent redundancy. It's not just likely, but actually essential that most of us will spend our lives on causes that actually don't matter at all. In part, because predicting what will actually be important or matter is incredibly hard.

While there's definitely a suggestion, but hard case to argue coherently, that art is somehow essential (many of us treat it as such), I'm aware that what I do is not very important in the grand scheme of things. And I enjoy what I do. It maintains the capacity and potential to be quite lucrative as well. Would the world notice it's absence? No. At best it might feel it. As I feel it, the very motivation to try and create what I want to.

I'm not arguing to find and follow your passion. I'm making the argument that accepting some humility can help you relax, and also help arrest a contagion of urgency highly likely to come both down and up the value chain of whatever it is you do.

One simple distinction that helped me when I was corporate was 'to know the difference between urgent and important'. Few do, they oil the squeaky wheel, feed the crying child.

Few people in my experience pull back to the large picture and think things through to their consequences. As such many people are stressed and anxious beyond any level that is actually useful.

I could relate this to the epidemic of anxiety we appear to be living through, but that feels like a separate post.

No comments: