I got into politics before I hit high school, but didn’t really get into art until I hit college. Maybe one could say my motivation at this point – my desire to shift from politics to art – is just recognition of overload, overdose, toxicity, or whatever. I’d say it might have more to do with art, than politics – even though I’ve recently been shown that Dante’s “Hell” would need at least few hundred more levels going down to really offer tortures long and vicious enough to truly fit the “crimes against humanity” committed daily by political beasts. As for why it has more to do with art, I will conveniently blame this one on the uber-sensitive-but-misunderstood-camel-smoking-artist that introduced me to the tortured and arguably neurotic artwork of Francis Bacon. It intrigued me, because it was raw, made absolutely no attempts at displaying beauty in a traditional sense, and (maybe what drew my favor more than anything) even was displayed with high gloss glass in front of it. Yes, Bacon wanted people to see themselves in his art, essentially putting the observer within the disturbing views he would create.
Bacon came to mind recently for me because I have been becoming increasingly less patient with people, particularly with the amount of venom that I see being spewed daily from and in all directions. The final straw, if you will, came when I started reading through Camille Paglia’s three part interview series on Salon. It’s not that I completely agree with Paglia on much of anything, however I definitely see her as a kindred spirit, especially now. I felt her pain, primarily from her mourning the loss of critical thought, depth, basic interest in what drives the human animal, and the myriad of other “things” I had taken for granted over the years. I realized that I had been going around with blinders on for some time, assuming that as the avalanche of facile words and concepts kept moving in front of my eyes, the authors really weren’t limiting themselves to those basic thoughts. They were just doing like I have been doing for years – avoiding depth for the sake of producing easily marketable “noise.” They, like me, had been writing muzak, but at the end of the day, they must have been closing their eyes while they refreshed their minds with Chopin or Wagner, right?
It finally occurred to me, in spite of the fact that I have probably written hundreds, if not thousands, of words about the death of academic rigor, that what I have been witnessing is the collective death of intellect. Yes, I was robotically writing about the demise of critical thought, without really engaging in an honest criticism of what I was seeing. There really are no new ideas out there, at least not radically new – just generic reformations of the genius of the past. The worst part is, most people under the age of forty probably do not even know what I am talking about, because they do not recall how the world used to be.
The noise – muzak – is deafening, and all that does is remind me yet again of my time in college, when I had been likened to Milan Kundera’s “Sabina” from The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Then, I was simply pleased to be considered even slightly like an artistic and highly independent character. Of course, that assessment of “Sabina” was extremely shallow and short-sighted. Kundera wrote her as someone that was very good at putting up a front of independence and strength, but at her core, she was craving debasement and struggling with her dependence on one man she could never truly have completely. But, one part of her I did understand even then – her character was the essence of revolt against the closing and numbing of the mind by the adoption of pop culture. Kundera called it “anti-kitsch,” but whether he meant it or not, he encapsulated far more than just that in the attitude he gave her.
I admit that I had forgotten about “Sabina,” and hadn’t really thought about what she really could stand for in philosophical thought. Honestly, I left behind most philosophical thought altogether, presumably dropping it in between seat cushions of an old friend’s sofa, along with the “four wine bottle nights” of open discussions on everything and nothing. Those nights fell out of fashion with the birth of iPhones and social media, which had been sold as a way to keep those deep conversations alive even across many miles. Even worse, I started feeding the beast with nonsense for the masses, without thinking critically about what I was seeing. At first, I at least tried to keep the tenuous ties between what might seem completely divergent concepts visible in what I would write, still trying to show anyone that bothered to read what I wrote that there really is in interconnected nature to ideas. Now, I don’t tend to bother, mostly because I know that the virtual red ink of editors would tend to remove them anyway.
Now, I think it’s time for me to stop feeding the mindlessness. Yes, I will continue to write on politics, but no one should be surprised if the tenor of my words begin to take on an anti-political tone. Even though my political roots are deeper than my artistic ones, critical thought for me is attached more firmly to art, as opposed to politics. I’ve killed enough brain cells on the regurgitation of the “next big thing,” that never turns out to be more than just a blip on the collective radar anyway. I’m tired of choking on righteous indignation without being able to delve into the “why” the human animal is capable of infinite levels of depravity in spite of being faced with pure hatred for it. It isn’t fulfilling to write about the darkness of people’s souls for the sake of perverse public entertainment, while failing to explain what makes people fall into that darkness. And finally, I still believe with every ounce of my being that psychology truly is not a science, but an art – the artful examination of the infinite variety of motivations that cause each and every action made or thought of by our infinitely fallible species. So, fuck politics! Give me art! Just don’t expect to see my work in paint like Bacon. Mine will be the words he couldn’t say, so he put them on canvas.