I am trying to investigate the prevalence of softness and the rarity of toughness because I believe that we have learned to be soft when it is time to get, and be, tough.
Can we find another way into the predominance of softness? It has often been observed that ours is an Age of Anxiety or, more recently, a time of terror. Plainly, one sees this in the Seattle earthquake story from The New Yorker and in various tweets and replies to the possibility that an earthquake could, within the next 100 years, utterly decimate Seattle. Respondents stressed how scared, terrified, and nervous they were or remarked upon how scared, trepidatious, and anxious Seattle residents should be.
Fear is hinted at, spoken of, and often exacerbated when it comes to almost everything, including child-raising, city dwelling, terrorist attacks, flying, health, the precarity of work, academic pursuits, love, the death of others, doing most anything unconventional. People speak of “being safe,” of wanting to find “safe spaces,” of being “vulnerable,” of being “uncomfortable” or at the edge of discomfort, of always being “stressed out,” “overwhelmed,” or “freaking out.” Disgrace is terrifying, humiliation is terrifying, public speaking terrifying, any sensitive subject terrifying, offending someone terrifying, knowing the truth about yourself absolutely terrifying…
We have become soft and it’s time to get tough. Aristotle says that “it is softness to fly from what is troublesome” and so the coward does. But then most of us are flying from what is troublesome. Can we even recall what courage is?
The coward, the rash man, and the brave man, then, are concerned with the same objects but are differently disposed toward them; for the first two exceed and fall short, while the third holds the middle, which is the right, position; and rash men are precipitate, and wish for dangers beforehand but draw back when they are in them, while brave men are excited in the moment of action, but collected beforehand.
All three men are concerned with the fearful and the excellent (kalon), yet the rash man rushes headlong into something without having knowledge of what is to be feared whereas the coward is full of fear and reacts accordingly. What Aristotle observes is that both the coward and the rash man draw back, ultimately.
A couple of days ago, my partner Alexandra brought this article, “Culture isn’t Free,” in Jacobin Magazine (July 2, 2015) to my attention. What is remarkable is just how it shows, in nuce and with such concentration, (i) the limits of leftist thinking as well as (ii) many of the doxa (i.e., the unquestioned, commonly received stock of beliefs) of the left. Because of (i) and (ii), (iii) the author’s recommendations are decidedly marked by the very institutional thinking that we need to extricate ourselves from. Because I have just released a report on the economic situation of artists, I find myself quite fascinated by the leftist orthodoxy.
Miranda Campbell, an Assistant Professor of the School of Creative Industries at Ryerson University in Montreal (I believe the title is relevant to my subsequent remarks), observes that artists are having a great deal of trouble earning a living during this period of neoliberalism. She goes on to show the fruitless attempts some artists have made to voice their concerns, the unsympathetic replies often being that “art is a luxury.” She concludes the piece by seeking to shift the conversation from the status of an individual artist to the social structures with a view to urging us to reform our social institutions so that they make it easier for artists to earn a living.
Can Modern Artists Make a Living?
This report was born of a query sent to 30 friends on April 30, 2015. I asked whether they knew anyone making a living at making art. The response was wintry.
Virtually no one knew of anyone who fit that description, yet nearly all expressed curiosity about reading my findings. This 32-page report details what I’ve discovered since that time.
A Factory or a Hustler?
To eke out a living, most artists have turned themselves into “factories” or “hustlers.” But being a factory or a hustler is at odds with the reason why artists wanted to become artists in the first place. Might there be some other way to live artistically?
4 Models for Making a Living
In this 32-page report, I don’t concern myself with the personal failures of particular artists, the burden of history, the rise of the precariat class, the perils of neoliberalism, or with waves upon waves of economic recession. Rather, I investigate what is possible for artists living today.
Counterintuitively, I show that there are four models that artists can use to live artistically:
- They can become excellent Warriors, Merchants, and Priests.
- They can forget about scaling and learn to love elitism.
- They can become masters who offer their wares at a premium.
- They can redefine the very nature of “being an artist.”
You’re welcome to read the first 10 pages of the 32-page report: How an Artist Can Hack a Living: A Report (Excerpt)
$5 Artist Report
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I hope this document opens your mind and expands your view of reality, enabling you to live artistically.
Love of another human being adds density, real heft, gristle, girth, to a human life, i.e., mine.
A life without love is only “rather nice.” A few pennies in a drawer, a thought before bed about washing.
The worst fate is not that of a loveless life, but it is the least beautiful and therefore the least lively. A loving life riptides, crackles, and we feel that even if we cannot say it.
Lovelessness fosters habits that fill up a life-cupboard: teatime twice a day, eagerness for the mailman, unstated satisfaction in hearing your knuckle pop.
I have been waiting for you and you have not arrived. This is what lovelessness feels like. Waiting for you, abiding, biding, refreshing a bookmarked webpage. Not deadening, deadness, just that sedentariness, that being at rest, you know it, an unused guest room that was once a playroom.
Grand Causes are no substitutes for love. Nor drugs or successes. Nor the piquancy of fame. Compared to love, these are mere whispers in the ever unbounded.
I know the most beauty there is. The fact that you are alive and you told a joke. Within earshot. Next time I’ll laugh. Doesn’t matter. I promise. Doesn’t matter.