“Searching For Meaning In Modernity”
The writer is an artist first and foremost. This is an indisputable fact, regardless of what sort of brainwashing techniques have garbled the synapses and sent people down the long, dark path to career iniquity.
What use is a tongue or a five-fingered hand if one’s soul cannot burst forth from them? The human gift is certainly something alien, something with which it is worth fiddling to no end. This humanoid gift is self-induced. It’s entheogenic. It’s culture.
Imagine a world, an earth, without such delicacies as poetry or literature, without winding melodies and stanzas so purified with wit that they cannot but cascade youthfully down the hillsides of one’s mind. It’s a dark and foreboding void, is it not? Does this image not conjure up fifteen-foot high walls of concrete, completely adorned with austere photos of government policy pushers and totalitarian dimwits?
This questioning tends to get one nowhere but deeper into the catacombs behind one’s eyes. In this journalistic forum we have going on here, let’s emerge back into the light… let’s leave the cave of Plato and truly get in touch with the artisans of time.
Writing, art, music, philosophical considerations… these can all be readily lumped into that wonderful cornucopia that textbooks call “culture.” This will be the legacy of the quasi-intelligent species that dominated our little green sphere called Earth. When the great human escapades have settled back into dust and we are no more, the only crumbs left over will be faint echoes of culture, still lingering in quaint vestibules of nature.
It’s culture that gives humans real options. Think bigger than that wonderful Wendy’s dollar menu. Think bigger than next quarter’s class schedule. In fact, go way out there and think bigger than our sordid political spectrum – which, at the end of the day, remains nothing more than a droplet of water in the sea of governance. From the left to the right, it’s the same pedantic nonsense. Let’s explore real human legacy – this time, in the form of writing and what it means. Let’s consider simultaneously what the writer is doing here and now, what his or her role is in this human comedy.
Good writing should resemble a good mushroom trip – or a bad one for that matter. It should jolt the senses into a reverie of madness and delight. It is at once the summer-stained field of daisies in which one romps, as well as the dusk-borne lighting storm that electrifies the petals and swings grass blades into do-si-does.
That’s all good and dandelion, but why? This author supposes that when one gets down to the nitty-gritty of all this humanoid artistic hogwash, one may wonder what it is really supposed to accomplish. A few nice words on some pretty stationery may make for some fine correspondence, but what’s it doing? Hell, the boys down in Washington are giving me something concrete to assess and submit to, what are all these punk writers doing for the betterment of society?
And there is the problem. Growing through life, people are told to try and grasp the “bigger picture” – zoom out and you’ll find the answers. Fine, let’s run with that. This fundamental flaw is in looking to tinker around with society. Politicians, this your stop here. Unless you’re interested in pursuing the rabbit hole further, I’d recommend you don your hats and end your journey abruptly. This destination of ours is no place for children like you.
Writers find themselves in a unique position, a place deep within the mind. Any writer can tell you that much. Hunter Thompson famously declared that there’s no way of describing the Edge. The only ones who have been there have gone over it. He may have very well been speaking of writers – or acidhead voyagers. You make the distinction.
In regards to the job of the writer, “a writer’s first obligation is not to the many-bellied beast but to the many-tongued beast, not to Society but to Language,” author Tom Robbins asserted. This is a fundamental element in the analysis of the purpose of writing. Yes, yes, the purpose of writing is a point of contention, but only on the surface. Journalists, playwrights, musicians, novelists, poets – they’re all in it for the same aspirations. Writers are forging ahead in that mental manifest destiny explored earlier: the great humanoid gift of culture.
Robbins goes on to note that “social action on the political/economic level is wee potatoes… We are in this life to enlarge the soul, liberate the spirit, and light up the brain.”
To hone the focus here, it may be the case that social change is an irrelevant point for discussion in the context of political and financial considerations. Many self-proclaimed progressives and leftist organizations tend to get hung up on this. In fact, I should stop right there. Even the mention of any political orientation is enough to offer oneself up to the anti-deities of sloth and wild goose chases.
It may very well be worth abandoning social betterment projects for a little while. Put that lofty stuff on the back burner and concentrate on something fresh. Or would it be stale? Has the idea of the love for writing been left out on the kitchen counter for too long? It’s developing some strange mold formations and, frankly, it doesn’t look too safe to eat.
Again, Orwellian Big Brothers seem to be infiltrating every beat in the rhythm of our souls. Forget it. Forget it all. Unlearn, defy. There’s something to be said for flowery language and prose with which one can stain glass. In pursuing such things, the collective human mind is extended far beyond petty economic woes and politicking.
It’s high time the 21st century Homo sapiens get off their asses and begin contributing to a true sense of cultural identity. What will this decade look like as we move forward and get the chance to look back on it? I hope to god that we’re not really in a societal trench right now. However, with elements previously discussed in this column (like technology’s effects and the apparent lack of humanism in the media today) the landscape is looking bleak. Our cultural barometer is dipping frighteningly low.
It is in this culture – one that is hoisted aloft and considered to be some worthy lighthouse towards which all other modern cultures aspire – that one tends to find a countering scenario. Our culture in the US, carried out under democratic auspices, is decidedly stifling. Materialism flows here like the unending taps at Oktoberfest. These neo-Western models of society and culture, rich in their empty splendor, are wonderful tools for strangling the life out of creative wit and expression.
The writer’s duty – one that is not imposed from the outside, but rather lit up from within the soul – is to preserve what little brushstrokes are left in the weary hands of the human race.
The writer is a writer because he or she writes. That’s what writers are compelled to do. The writer is an artist because he or she lives.