Being friends and sharing simple things

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A lot of time has gone by now. As I write this it is almost 1980. George Maciunas died last year of a long and horrible illness.

But he knew before he died that his mistake was forgiven, that all the Fluxus people were together again - they came together for concerts, for New Years' parties, for many things like that. And when Maciunas was dying, they came together to his house to help him finish up a lot of his Fluxus boxes and works before he died.

When Maciunas went into the hospital for the last time, his doctors said, "We don't know why this man is still alive". But the Fluxus people knew. Being friends and sharing simple things can be so very important.

And though Fluxus is almost twenty years old now - or maybe more than twenty, depending on when you want to say it began - there are still new Fluxus people coming along, joining the group.

Why? Because Fluxus has a life of its own, apart from the old people in it. It is simple things, taking things for themselves and not just as part of bigger things. It is something that many of us must do, at least part of the time.

So Fluxus is inside you, is part of how you are. It isn't just a bunch of things and dramas but is part of how you live. It is beyond words.

[Dick Higgins]
A Child's History of Fluxus


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Walter

Access experience

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I was out on a bike-ride (or cycle-dérive) the other day, and I'd made my way to an area of field and woodland that is currently being developed into what appears to be an industrial estate. The development is in its early stages, and a few new buildings have recently sprung up. They look quite incongruous sitting out there in the middle of nature.

I was looking at two of these buildings; they appear to be office space - both of them are quite large, with two floors and glass sides. They are identical to each other, but only one of them is currently occupied.

I was looking at the empty one, and noticing how you could see straight through it. You've probably seen buildings like this before; office-space in waiting. These buildings have always held a certain attraction for me - their latency invites you to use your imagination, to think about what you would put in there, or do in there. Its nice to imagine wandering around them whilst they're empty, as this is something most of us probably get to do so rarely. For me these spaces definitely have a lot of imaginative potential.

I then noticed a man standing outside the empty building smoking a cigarette, presumably the security guard. I was tempted to ask him if I could have a look around the building, but my rational side got the better of me and I didn't approach him (reasoning; what would I say? Can I have a look around? And what if he asked why? How would I explain my motivations without sounding suspicious and/or strange?).

It struck me later that if I'd have had my camera on me then the situation may have been entirely different. I would most certainly have been less afraid to approach him, knowing that I could have explained my intentions by using the camera; I could have told him that I wanted to take photos for a project on the development; that I was freelance photographer, or a student.

Perhaps in a perfect world we wouldn't need devices like these in order to give us an excuse for exploring and experiencing the world; but, if you are of a timid nature or your rational side has too strong a grip, then such devices can prove really handy.

In this instance the camera would have been a device for gaining access to a place where I had no reason to be, other than simple curiousity. Of course, this is reason enough in itself, but it isn't always easy to explain this to someone, or even to justify it to your (rationalising) self.

There are many other examples of devices that allow subtleties of experience. Let's say you find yourself sitting indoors on a lovely sunny day. You realise that you'd like to be outside, but you have no ostensible reason for going out. Some may take a walk, or go sit in a park. The skateboarder always has a reason for being outside. And a sunny day never presents a problem of imagination. The skateboard, whilst serving its ostensive purpose (it allows the person to skate), also acts as a device allowing the skater to experience being out and about on a lovely day - a device for accessing subtleties of experience.

I'm not suggesting that we all take up skateboarding, but I hope you can understand the idea; the camera and the skateboard, whilst being devices for taking pictures and skating upon, can also act in other ways.

So, note to self: always carry the camera, just in case ...

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Disenchanted


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It seems to them vulgar to enjoy food because you are hungry or to enjoy life because if offers a variety of interesting spectacles and surprising experiences. From the height of their disillusionment they look down upon those whom they despise as simple souls. For my part I have no sympathy with this outlook.

All disenchantment is to me a malady, which it is true, certain circumstances may render inevitable, but which none the less, when it occurs, is to be cured as soon as possible, not to be regarded as a higher form of wisdom.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.111

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Tactfully Unconventional


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Conventional people are roused to fury by departures from convention, largely because they regard such departures as a criticism of themselves.

They will pardon much unconventionality in a man who has enough jollity and friendliness to make it clear, even to the stupidest, that he is not engaged in criticising them.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.89

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Facing Fears

When some misfortune threatens, consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked this possible misfortune in the face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all it would be no such very terrible disaster. Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance.

When you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real conviction, 'Well, after all, that would not matter so very much', you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent.

It may be necessary to repeat the process a few times, but in the end, if you have shirked nothing in facing the worst possible issue, you will find that your worry disappears altogether, and is replaced by a kind of exhilaration

... the proper course with every kind of fear is to think about it rationally and calmly, but with great concentration, until finally it has become completely familiar. In the end familiarity will blunt its terrors; the whole subject will become boring ...

When you find yourself inclined to brood on anything, no matter what, the best plan always is to think about it even more than you naturally would, until at last its morbid fascination is worn off.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.50, 51

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Widen Your Horizons

Suppose one man likes strawberries and another does not; in what respect is the latter superior? There is no abstract and impersonal proof either that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good; to the man who dislikes them they are not.

But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live.

What is true in this trivial instance is equally true in more important matters. The man who enjoys watching football is to that extent superior to the man who does not. The man who enjoys reading is still more superior to the man who does not, since opportunities for reading are more frequent than opportunities for watching football.

The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has, and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.111, 112

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The things that we dislike we'll try to get ourselves into. Then not only do we have another thing that we get to like, which makes life a little bigger, but we also have one less weak thing inside of us.

[Andrew W.K.]

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[...] as that which contains the potentials for change, the genome of the individual organism is what the computer engineers would call a bank, providing storage of available alternative pathways of adaptation. Most of these alternatives remain unused and therefore invisible in any given individual.

Similarly [...] the gene pool of the population is nowadays believed to be exceedingly heterogeneous. All of the genetic combinations that could occur are created, if only rarely, by the suffling of genes in sexual reproduction.

There is thus a vast bank of alternative genetic pathways that any wild population can take under pressure of selection [...]

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 196

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Loose Grip

A great many worries can be diminished by realising the unimportance of the matter which is causing the anxiety.

I have done in my time a considerable amount of public speaking; at first every audience terrified me, and nervousness made me speak very badly; I dreaded the ordeal so much that I always hoped I might break my leg before I had to make a speech, and when it was over I was exhausted from the nervous strain.

Gradually I taught myself to feel that it did not matter whether I spoke well or ill, the universe would remain much the same in either case. I found the less I cared whether I spoke well or badly, the less badly I spoke, and gradually the nervous strain diminished almost to vanishing point. A great deal of nervous fatigue can be dealt with in this way.

Our doings are not so important as we naturally suppose; our successes and failures do not after all matter very much. Even great sorrows can be survived; troubles which seem as if they must put an end to happiness for life fade with the lapse of time until it becomes almost impossible to remember their poignancy.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.47, 48

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An Orderly Mind

To a great extent fatigue in such cases is due to worry, and worry could be prevented by a better philosophy of life and a little more mental discipline. Most men and women are very deficient in control over their thoughts. I mean by this that they cannot cease to think about worrying topics at times when no action can be taken in regard to them.

It is amazing how much both happiness and efficiency can be increased by the cultivation of an orderly mind, which thinks about a matter adequately at the right time rather than inadequately at all times.

When a difficult or worrying decision has to be reached, as soon as all the data are available, give the matter your best thought and make your decision; having made the decision, do not revise it unless some new fact comes to your knowledge. Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.46, 47

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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.

CBT cannot remove your problems, but it can help you deal with them in a more positive way. It is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.

CBT aims to help you crack this cycle by breaking down overwhelming problems into smaller parts and showing you how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel.

Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

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Love Sheen

... love is to be valued because it enhances all the best pleasures, such as music, and sunrise in mountains, and the sea under the full moon. A man who has never enjoyed beautiful things in the company of a woman whom he loved has not experienced to the full the magic power of which such things are capable.

I do not pretend that love in its highest form is common, but I do maintain that in its highest form it reveals values which must otherwise remain unknown, and has itself a value which is untouched by scepticism, although sceptics who are incapable of it may falsely attribute their incapacity to their scepticism.

True love is a durable fire,
In the mind ever burning,
Never sick, never dead, never cold,
From itself never turning

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.23

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Forget Your Self

In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might also say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more.

This is due partly to having discovered what were the things that I most desired and having gradually acquired many of these things.

Partly it is due to having successfully dismissed certain objects of desire - such as the acquisition of indubitable knowledge about something or other - as essentially unattainable.  

But very largely it is due to a diminishing preoccupation with myself.

Like many other who had a Puritan education, I had the habit of meditating on my sins, follies, and shortcomings. I seemed to myself - no doubt justly - a miserable specimen. Gradually I learned to be indifferent to myself and my deficiencies; I came to centre my attention increasingly upon external objects: the state of the world, various branches of knowledge, individuals for whom I felt affection.

Every external interest inspires some activity which, so long as the interest remains alive, is a complete preventive of ennui.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.6

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[...] psychologist, Jean Twenge, [...] has been [analyzing] what she describes as a "narcissism epidemic" in the US that is disproportionately affecting women.

The narcissist has huge expectations of themselves and their lives. Typically, they make predictions about what they can achieve that are unrealistic, for example in terms of academic grades and employment. They seek fame and status, and the achievement of the latter leads to materialism – money enables the brand labels and lavish lifestyle that are status symbols. It is the Paris Hilton syndrome across millions of lives.

An individualistic culture has, in turn, reinforced a preoccupation with the self and its promotion.

The narcissist is often rewarded – they tend to be outgoing, good at selling themselves, and very competitive: they are the types who will end up as Sir Alan's apprentice. But their success is shortlived; the downside is that they have a tendency to risky behaviour, addictive disorders, have difficulties sustaining intimate relationships, and are more prone to aggressive behaviour when rejected.

The narcissism of young women could just be a phase they will grow out of, admits Twenge, but she is concerned that the evidence of narcissism is present throughout highly consumerist, individualistic societies – and women suffer disproportionately from the depression and anxiety linked to it.

This is what alarms psychologist Oliver James [...] He points to the pressures of a "consumerised, commercially driven version of femininity" that puts huge emphasis on girls' appearance.

The expectations of girls and women have multiplied and intensified – on every front, from passing exams to looking good and having more friends and better photos on Facebook.  

Technology proliferates the places in which one is required to self-promote.

[Madeleine Bunting]
From article on Guardian website ('The narcissism of consumer society has left women unhappier than ever'), here.

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I used to live in a room full of mirrors
All I could see was me
Then I take my spirit and I smash my mirrors
And now the whole world is here for me to see
Now I'm searching for my love to be

[Jimi Hendrix]

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I've noticed that I've enjoyed life more recently when I've taken myself out of the equation, when I've thought less about myself.

I usually don't take much of an interest in other people, I'm usually quite self-absorbed, mostly interested in my thoughts and feelings. I can get too concerned about how I look, my appearance, the expression on my face, how I come across, and it wears me out.

Recently I've been having phases of feeling like an observer, invisible, in a good way. Not concerned with myself but other things. Usually, some part of my mind is taken up with thinking about what other people see when they look at me. Always concerned.

But then that switched off, somehow, just here and there, and it felt good. It felt like decades of self-consciousness were over.

And the way I've been chatting with strangers has changed. Chatting or looking or any kind of interaction like that. I feel closer to them.

I think it's maybe all that stuff about free will being an illusion that's spurred it on. I've always liked strangers, but now feel closer. Not every stranger, all the time, I don't mean I'm going up to people and cuddling them. It's just a minor change, but a big yin anaw.

I feel like I care less about being hurt by people because I take it less personally, I feel like I almost don't matter, and it's good.

I feel more predisposed to smile at a stranger in the last few weeks than I did before. Before, I was scared of how I looked. I was scared of my smile or whatever being ignored, which would usually hurt my feelings, but now I don't care. It feels less about me.

I was lying in bed thinking about it, how much I love people, even the ones I'd like to lock up for the rest of their lives.

In short, I want to like people, that's what hit me in bed. I want to like them, I don't want to hate them, I want to like them. I felt like I had made the decision to like people, even if they didn't like me, even if I felt I should hate them. Basically, I felt like I had an unconditional love (or just like) for everybody, if not for who they are but who they could be.

I'm no quite making sense anymore. But you know what I mean. Sort of hippy feelings you get sometimes, then go oot the windae 10 mins later. By "hippy" I mean sort of wishy-washy, wouldn't-it-be-nice thinking that doesn't work in the real world over a long period of time.

Maybe I'm just tired of working out who to like and dislike and why and how to react to what and to what extent. I want to like everybody. I just feel myself drifting more into an unconditional friendliness towards people as a default frame of mind.

Whether that actually comes across to the outside world is another matter, but it's how I feel inside.

[Limmy]

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Objectivity can mean a selfless openness to the needs of others, one which lies very close to love.

It is the opposite not of personal interests and convictions, but of egoism. To try to see the other's situation as it really is is an essential condition of caring for them.

[...] genuinely caring for someone is not what gets in the way of seeing their situation for what it is, but what makes it possible. Contrary to the adage that love is blind, it is because love involves a radical acceptance that it allows us to see the other for what they are.

To be concerned for another is to be present to them in the form of an absence, a certain self-forgetful attentiveness. If one is loved or trusted in return, it is largely this which gives one the self-confidence to forget about oneself, a perilous matter otherwise.

We need to think about ourselves partly because of fear, which the assurance which flows from being trusted allows us to overcome.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.131, 133-4

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[Anonymous]
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Live In The Now

Why should my future goals matter more than those I have now? It is not just that they are remote, even hypothetical. They may be less worth striving for:

'Why should a youth suppress his budding passions in favour of the sordid interests of his withered old age? Why is that problematical old man who may bear his name fifty years hence nearer to him now than any imaginary creature?'

Caring about your self as it will be in the future is no more reasonable than caring about the self you are now.

[John Gray]
Quoting
George Santayana
Straw Dogs, p.105

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By joining the race for better theories, more logical social relations, more immediate forms of expression and more authentic lives, revolutionaries only perpetuate the grand social myth of a final resolution and perfect unification; a myth which fixes our sights on an ever-receding horizon and prevents us from turning our attention to the here and now.

[Sadie Plant]
The Most Radical Gesture, p.143

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Idler: You have Cynthia saying, “I’m tired of thinking of the present as an insignificant preamble to the future.” I don’t think that thought consciously occurred to me as an adolescent, but it does now.

Linklater
: I didn’t have it that well articulated when I was 17, but I do remember thinking, “my whole life is anticipation, everything I’m doing in school is to serve some future purpose”. All people would say is, “what are you going to do when you grow up?” Wait - you mean we’re not people right now? You’re being moulded to be a little drone worker in the system, to be responsible, patriotic, God fearing … and that rubs off. It’s hard to enjoy the moment when you’re a teenager. I would tell the actors, “No matter how much fun it is now, you’re thinking about what’s happening next.” Bowling ball through the windshield, oh, we’re out of beer, oh, get the beer, oh, have a gun pulled on you, oh, where’s the party. That’s how I remember it. An evening would be over and it was like, well, nothing happened.

[Richard Linklater]
Interview with The Idler, full text here.

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We produce not for a concrete satisfaction but for the abstract purpose of selling our commodity ... In the same way we regard our personal qualities and the result of our efforts as commodities that can be sold for money, prestige, and power.

The emphasis thus shifts from the present satisfaction of creative activity to the value of the finished product. Thereby man misses the only satisfaction that can give him real happiness - the experience of the activity of the present moment - and chases after a phantom that leaves him disappointed as soon as he believes he has caught it - the illusory happiness called success.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.224-6

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You, in every moment 
Process vs Outcome 

Facing Reality

Action preserves a sense of self-identity that reflection dispels. When we are at work in the world we have a seeming solidity.

It is not the idle dreamer who escapes from reality. It is practical men and women, who turn to a life of action as a refuge from insignificance.

In thinking so highly of work we are aberrant. Few other cultures have ever done so. For nearly all of history and all prehistory, work was an indignity.

... the work and prayer of medieval Christendom were interspersed with festivals. The ancient Greeks sought salvation in philosophy, the Indians in meditation, the Chinese in poetry and the love of nature.

[John Gray]
Straw Dogs, p.194, 195

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... with the new tools of observation that psychoanalysis offers, we can recognize that so-called rational behaviour is largely determined by the character structure. In our discussion of the meaning of work for modern man we have dealt with an illustration of this point.

We saw that the intense desire for unceasing activity was rooted in aloneness and anxiety. This compulsion to work differed from the attitude towards work in other cultures, where people worked as much as it was necessary but where they were not driven by additional forces within their own character structure.

Since all normal persons to-day have about the same impulse to work and, furthermore, since this intensity of work is necessary if they want to live at all, one easily overlooks the irrational component in this trait.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.242

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As this is written, a sow bug crawls across a desk. If he is turned over on his back, one can observe the tremendous struggle that he goes through to get on his feet again. During this interval he has a “purpose” in his life. When he succeeds, one can almost see the look of victory on his face. Off he goes, and one can imagine him telling his tale at the next meeting of sow bugs, looked up to by the younger generation as an insect who has made it. And yet mixed with his smugness is a little disappointment. Now that he has come out on top, life seems aimless.

[Eric Berne]
Games People Play, p.71

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Our modern industrial system requires that most of our energy be channelled in the direction of work. Were it only that people worked because of external necessities, much friction between what they ought to do and what they would like to do would arise and lessen their efficiency.

However, by the dynamic adaptation of character to social requirements, human energy instead of causing friction is shaped into such forms as to become an incentive to act according to the particular economic necessities.

Thus modern man, instead of having to be forced to work as hard as he does, is driven by the inner compulsion to work ... Or, instead of obeying overt authorities, he has built up an inner authority - conscience and duty - which operates more effectively in controlling him than any external authority could ever do.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.244

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The East is grateful to the West for progress in medecine and increased life expectancy. These are things everyone appreciates. But on the other side, a civilization oriented almost exclusively toward that form of action on the world clearly lacks something essential that material progress can never bring - indeed, it's not what it's designed to do.

That lack appears clearly in the confusion so many minds are plunged into, in the violence that reigns in the inner cities, in the selfishness that governs so many human relationships, in the sad resignation of all those spending their last years in old people's homes, and in the despair of suicide.

If spiritual values stop being an inspiration for a society, material progress becomes a sort of facade that masks the pointlessness of life.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.158

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The Real Thing
Live in the Now

Towards a tender society

People often asked how I'm able to entice random strangers into working with me on art projects about their own lives. The answer is that I appear to actually be interested in the person and his or her activities. And what is the best strategy for appearing interested? The answer is to sincerely be interested in fact nothing else will work. This is not difficult for me, because I actually think that people are interesting. I would even go so far as to say that I have a great fondness for the human race.

This wasn't always the case; as a child and adolescent, I was extremely shy and preferred to stay clear of most people. Dogs, books, and cheeses were all preferable companions to me. When, later in life, I decided to become a participant in society, I realized that I had no social skills for constructively engaging with people. Small talk had always made me feel dead inside, so that wasn't going to work. Instead, I decided to actively push conversations in the direction of "bigger talk."

I asked people real questions about their lives, their work, their histories, their favorite foods, etc. Sometimes this was perceived as invasive, but I tried to be very sensitive. I became an increasingly capable listener and asker of related follow-up questions. As a result, my social self has been very intentionally constructed. This isn't as bad as it might seem, though. I think everyone's social (and personal) selves are constructed, just not usually very consciously.

Through asking strangers questions, I have learned to have more meaningful interactions with people outside of my work--friends, family, neighbors, even people at art openings, sometimes. I try to be willing to discuss subjects that are really important in my life, too. When my sister died last summer, I talked with several people about it (sometimes people I didn't know very well) and found out that most of them had also faced death in some way. It was very comforting, and it caused me to believe that people in general have the ability to relate to all sorts of things, if they are given the chance.

Since I've been paying attention, it's become incredibly obvious how few meaningful questions people ask each other. I recommend that people try a little harder. How much do you really know about the people who you encounter on a daily basis? Try asking these people what they really care about. Show them that you are truly interested. Perhaps it will rub off on them, and they will ask you a question back. Whole complex conversations might ensue. You'll learn things from each other, trust and honesty could develop --the world (and the art world with it) might become a better place.

[Harrell Fletcher]

Related posts:-
The Golden Rule

Walter

I spent two years out of school between undergrad and graduate school. For one of the years I drove around the country and into Mexico living out of my truck, periodically crashing on the couches of friends and family. The other year I lived in Los Gatos, California and worked in the after school program of a small grade school in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I did art projects with all of the kids there from kindergarten to 5th grade. Right away I noticed that the kindergarteners were all interdisciplinary artists, and that they were very fearless and motivated. There was a slow regression that took place as the kids got older and by the time they were in 5th grade there was usually only one kid in each class that was considered an artist and that was because he or she could draw realistically. The rest of the kids were convinced that they had no artistic abilities at all.

One of the kindergarteners I worked with was named Walter, he was the smallest kid in the whole school but he was clearly very intelligent too. Somehow he had learned to multiply and divide in his head and the other older kids loved to throw complicated equations his way and wait for him to come up with the answers, which were almost always correct. I'd had bad experiences with math as a kid, and like the 5th graders who had lost their artistic sense of themselves, I'd lost any concept of myself being able to do anything but rudimentary math. But Walter wanted more math to tackle and it wasn't being supplied in his kindergarten class. So I asked my mathematician friend Cleveland to explain some simple algebra to me. Cleveland is a thoughtful and patient instructor and soon I actually found myself learning and being excited about math with the primary motivation of being able to pass on what I was learning to Walter.

When it came to the art projects for the kids I tried to keep it simple, I liked making books and so I showed them how to make books too. Walter was particularly excited about this activity. Every day he made a new set of drawings on a specific subject of interest like insects, dinosaurs, ghosts, monsters, animals found in Africa, etc. He would then dictate to me the text and title and staple the whole thing together. Then he would run around the little campus and make everyone look at his book. Kids would stop basketball games and gather around to flip through Walter's latest creation. After he had shown everyone, Walter would discard the book, with total disinterest (I rescued several from the trash) and started speculating on the next day's book topic.

It occurred to me that Walter was fulfilling a whole little system of parts which are crucial to the artistic process. He determined a subject that was of interest to him, insects, etc. expressed his feelings on the subject through his drawings and text, and then went out to share his product with an audience.

There were no other factors or motivations, no hope of using the work to get into grad school, or to get a gallery show, and no desire to make something that looked like something else he saw in Art Forum.

It occurred to me that I had started similarly to Walter when I first was interested in making art, but that somewhere along the way that system had been corrupted. I decided to stop making art for a while and then as projects slowly started occurring to me again I tried to compare them with Walter's process to determine if I should pursue them or not. It has been difficult to maintain Walter's level of simplicity and integrity, but it is always a goal of mine.

[Harrell Fletcher]

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The test is this: do you produce because you feel an urgent compulsion to express certain ideas or feelings, or are you actuated by the desire for applause?

In the genuine artist the desire for applause, while it usually exists strongly, is secondary, in the sense that the artist wishes to produce a certain kind of work, and hopes that that work may be applauded, but will not alter his style even if no applause is forthcoming.

The man, on the other hand, to whom the desire for applause is the primary motive, has no force within himself urging him to a particular kind of expression, and could therefore just as well do work of some wholly different kind.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Conquest of Happiness, p.82

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Active imagination is not an artistic endeavor, not a creative production of paintings and poems.

One may aesthetically give form to the images - indeed one should try as best one can aesthetically - though this is for the sake of the figures, in dedication to them and to realize their beauty, and not for the sake of art.

The aesthetic work of active imagination is therefore not to be confused with art for exhibition or publication.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.78

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I had a professor in grad school who told me that he was addicted to the art world, and that he was never satisfied. Once he got into one show he just wanted to get into another that he perceived as more important, he also scanned Art Forum every month to make sure his name was mentioned somewhere in it and if it wasn't he felt depressed. I think he told me this as a warning.

Mostly what I'm trying to do as an artist is to live an interesting life. At least that's what I keep telling myself. It can be a struggle at times, but I think that is pretty much what I am doing.

[Harrell Fletcher]

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Learning Environments

I like to read about alternative education for kids from the 60's and 70's. There is one writer I'm particularly fond of named John Holt. He wrote a great book called How Children Learn, and then about twenty years later he revised the book by adding comments on his own writing in the margins of the book. He thought that a lot of the text he'd written twenty years earlier didn't make any sense.

One of the things he did agree with is that traditional classrooms are not set up as learning environments because the kids are divided up in terms of age, and because they are forced to sit in desks and not move or talk unless they raise their hand and are called on and then only to regurgitate what the teacher has already told them.

He says that instead a learning environment would be one that has a mix of ages and experiences in one place so that people can learn from each other, and that learning happens through doing activities and talking with other people, so those things shouldn't be suppressed. In later books he suggests that typical schools are really more like prisons for kids rather than places of learning. I tend to agree.

[Harrell Fletcher]

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In the art world there is so much emphasis on originality. Artists buy right into that, and even though they are always influenced by other people they try pretending that they are not. The galleries promote this idea and encourage "signature styles", rarification and the star/celebrity system. I can see why the galleries would like that way of doing business because it allows them to inflate prices and make demand, but for artists there is no real benefit.

It just suppresses the true way that people develop their work through adapting and hybridizing and creates an environment where artists feel like they have to protect and make secret their process rather than sharing it freely and feeling good about doing that, which I think would be much more healthy both for individuals and as a system.

[Harrell Fletcher]

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alternatively if you are a commentatory person and think this is even slightly useful then do lift bits of it. i am a pretty procrastinatory campaigning hobbyist journalist so what other people regard as plagiarism often feels like a massively positive outcome to me.

[Ben Goldacre]
Bad Science (blog): http://www.badscience.net/2009/05/a-characteristically-amateurish-and-socially-inappropriate-approach-to-pitching-an-article/

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As writers we choose our words from the selection given to us, and arrange them as best we can in order to convey a message. Some people are deemed to convey their messages more effectively than others; and some see an opportunity in this ability, and attempt to gain from the fact that they can convey messages effectively.

Regardless of the way in which we stack the blocks, it remains that the blocks are not ours.

With this in mind, I will freely use a combination of words that another has used before me if I think that doing so will help me to more effectively convey a message.

My chief concern is with conveying a message in the most effective way possible. To put it another way; my chief concern is with uncovering Truth. Everything is second to this.

Outside the concerns of commerce and the immature ego, ownership means little. It has no constructive value. It is unfortunate that we live in a society that seems to value these concerns more than Truth.

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Experiential Education

When I was in college as an undergraduate at Humboldt State University, which is in a very small hippy town in northern California, I took a class from a teacher named Bill Duvall, he had co-written an important environmental book called Deep Ecology. The class I took was called Experiential Education.

On the first day of class Bill Duval asked each of the students to pick an outdoor physical activity to do during class periods for the rest of the semester. Some people chose surfing, some bike riding, and some kayaking. I decided to walk on railroad tracks. I got really good at it, by the end I could walk on the tracks for miles at a time without falling off, I could also run on them, jump from one track to the other, spin around on them, and walk on them with my eyes closed. The class didn't meet for the rest of the semester until the last weekend when we all meet up on a camping trip to talk about our personal experiences of doing our activities.

Somehow I think about that class often, where as most of the other classes I took in college and all of the tests and papers and discussions that were a part of them are long forgotten.

[Harrell Fletcher]

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Create              -                    Consume
Active               -                    Passive
Assertive           -                   Receptive


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In creative living you or I find that everything we do strengthens the feeling that we are alive, that we are ourselves.

One can look at a tree (not necessarily at a picture) and look creatively. If you have ever had a depression phase of the schizoid sort (and most have), you will know this in the negative. How often I have been told: 'There is a laburnum outside my window and the sun is out and I know intellectually that it must be a grand sight, for those who can see it. But for me this morning (Monday) there is no meaning in it. I cannot feel it. It makes me acutely aware of not being myself real.'

Although allied to creative living, the active creations of letter writers, poets, artists, sculptors, architects, musicians, are different. You will agree that if someone is engaged in artistic creation, we hope he or she can call on some special talent. But for creative living we need no special talent.

This is a universal need, and a universal experience, and even the bedridden, withdrawn schizophrenic may be living creatively in a secret mental activity, and therefore in a sense happy.

Creativity, then, is the retention throughout life of something that belongs properly to infant experience: the ability to create the world [...] the child that became you or me found itself equipped with some capacity to see everything in a fresh way, to be creative in every detail of living.

By creative living I mean not getting killed or annihilated all the time by compliance or by reacting to the world that impinges; I mean seeing everything afresh all the time.

Somewhere in the scheme of things there can be room for everyone to live creatively. This involves retaining something personal, perhaps secret, that is unmistakably yourself. If nothing else, try breathing, something no one can do for you.

I believe there is nothing that has to be done that cannot be done creatively, if the person is creative or has that capacity [...] I believe it is true, as I have already indicated, that however poor the individual's equipment, experience can be creative and can be felt to be exciting in the sense that there is always something new and unexpected in the air.

[...] experience of creative living is always more important for the individual than doing well.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Home Is Where We Start From: Essays By A Psychoanalyst ('Living Creatively'), p.40-4, 51-3


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I know that one way of cooking sausages is to look up the exact directions [...] and another way is to take some sausages and somehow to cook sausages for the first time ever. The result may be the same on any one occasion, but it is more pleasant to live with the creative cook, even if sometimes there is a disaster or the taste is funny and one suspects the worst.

The thing I am trying to say is that for the cook the two experiences are different: the slavish one who complies gets nothing from the experience except an increase in the feeling of dependence on authority, while the original one feels more real, and surprises herself (or himself) by what turns up in the mind in the course of the act of cooking.

When we are surprised at ourselves, we are being creative, and we find we can trust our own unexpected originality. We shall not mind if those who consume the sausages fail to notice the surprising thing that was in the cooking of them, or if they do not show gustatory appreciation.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Home Is Where We Start From: Essays By A Psychoanalyst ('Living Creatively'), p.51


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Locus of control is a psychological concept articulated in the 1950s by Julian Rotter.

Those with an internal locus of control experience themselves as able to influence outcomes that affect them. Those with an external locus of control feel that most of what happens to them is beyond their ability to affect.

Though both external and internal loci of control confer advantages and disadvantages, research has shown that having an internal locus of control is associated with less stress and better health, whereas having an external locus of control is correlated with anxiety disorders. Importantly, an internal locus of control appears to be a decisive factor in determining whether one will be psychologically resilient.

As a society, therefore, it is in our interest to cultivate an internal locus of control, and indeed, the popular notions of grit and mindset are undergirded by locus of control theory. 

[Lisa Marchiano]
'Collision with Reality: What Depth Psychology Can Tell us About Victimhood Culture'


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People move away from their favored conclusions much too little given contrary evidence. In fact, if led to believe an idea is their own, people are more intransigent about listening to alternative opinions, thinking their own ideas are true and that other people’s decisions require more scrutiny.

In a paradigmatic example, people might be asked to estimate the length of the Nile River. After doing so, they are given the estimate of another individual and asked if they want to revise their own estimate.

Time and again, researchers show that respondents would be far more accurate if they just averaged their original estimate with the estimate given by the other individual. People, however, largely refuse to do so. They frequently budge a little bit in their estimates, about 30% of the way, toward the advice the other person gives them, but that is all. In over a third of cases, they refuse to budge at all.

In real world circumstances of substantial consequence, a surprising number of people reject the advice of experts. In 2011, roughly half a million medical patients in the United States, around 1 to 2%, checked themselves out of hospitals against their doctor’s advice. About 20 percent of patients fail to fill first-time prescriptions. Fewer than 2 out of every 3 Americans over 50 carry through with recommendations to screen for colon cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of Medicare recipients, around 5 million people, fail to take their prescribed blood pressure medication.

The reasons people may refuse medical advice are complex and involve many different issues. One common issue, however, is that patients often think they know best.

[David Dunning]
'The best option illusion in self and social control', Self and Identity, p. 5-6


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Feed Your Imagination!

The fact is that people must not take jobs that they find stifling - or if they cannot avoid this, they must organize their weekends so as to feed the imagination, even at the worst moments of boring routine.

It has been said that it is easier to keep the imaginative life going in a truly boring routine than in an area of somewhat interesting work.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Home Is Where We Start From: Essays By A Psychoanalyst ('Living Creatively'), p.43

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Truth to tell, I have a very high opinion of fantasy.

It is true that there are worthless, inadequate, morbid and unsatisfying fantasies whose sterile nature will be quickly recognized by every person endowed with commonsense; but this of course proves nothing against the value of creative imagination. All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy.

The creative activity of the imagination frees man from his bondage to the "nothing but" and liberates in him the spirit of play. As Schiller says, man is completely human only when he is playing.

[C.G. Jung]
Modern Man In Search Of A Soul ('The Aims of Psychotherapy'), p.67

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Carry Each Other

It is human beings who are likely to destroy the world. If so, we can perhaps die in the last atomic explosion knowing that this is not health but fear; it is part of the failure of healthy people and healthy society to carry its ill members.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Home Is Where We Start From: Essays By A Psychoanalyst ('The Concept of a Healthy Individual'), p.37

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Weeds, he said, don't exist. We call plants we don't want "weeds," but to Rolling Thunder all plants have a purpose that should be respected.

[...] For him there are no weeds, no mosquito bites, no unwanted rains. There are no dangerous plants or animals.  

For him there is no fear.

The wind and the rain, the mosquitoes and the snakes are all within him. His consciousness extends to include them within its very being.

[Doug Boyd]
Rolling Thunder, p.9, 72

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In Native American lifestyles, seldom is anything thrown away unused - including people.

A Crow traditionalist says, "We don't waster people, the way white society does. Every person has their gift."

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 57

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As you have by now surely noticed, I don’t know enough about politics to ponder a solution and my hands are sticky with blood money from representing corporate interests through film, television and commercials, venerating, through my endorsements and celebrity, products and a lifestyle that contributes to the alienation of an increasingly dissatisfied underclass.

But I know, as we all intuitively know that the solution is all around us and it isn’t political, it is spiritual. Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

If we want to live in a society where people feel included, we must include them, where they feel represented, we must represent them and where they feel love and compassion for their communities then we, the members of that community, must find love and compassion for them.

[Russell Brand]

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[...] It is not self-defense but self-mastery that the adepts have learned.

To maintain and assert the illusory sense of a separate, contending self, to encourage and nourish a preoccupation with adversity and defensiveness - this is precisely what martial arts is not. Self-mastery involves developing a concept of self quite different from the contemporary meaning implied when using the English words "self" and "defense."

Self-mastery involves overcoming the illusion of the isolated self.

This basic principle of self-mastery must be what Aki's karate master had in mind when he told his new students, "Do not get hit."

Aki's style and philosophy seemed to suggest a sense of collective self - of an interplay between mutual and individual will and intent. Because of the interrelatedness of all things, each "self" is a responsible participant in the collective will of all of life.

One way of saying this is that both "hitter" and "hittee" are co-creators of the scenario in which someone hits someone.

Such a thought threatens those who prefer to hold onto a we-they, victim-consciousness point of view. But a we-they point of view is threatening in itself.

It will be a co-creation philosophy, rather than a self-defense philosophy, that will provide workable solutions for our contemporary social problems.

[Doug Boyd]
Mystics, Magicians and Medicine People: Tales of a Wanderer, p. 59-63, 65-6

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Leading By Example

We remember the Baal Shem Tov, that genius of the spirit in the early eighteenth century in Poland, would not let his young men read certain spiritual texts until they were thirty-five. Some say that the man's task in the first half of his life is to become bonded to matter: to learn a craft, become friends with wood, earth, wind, or fire.

When Jung established a training centre in Zurich, he would not accept a person who was not already a success in some other career. It was a way of saying thirty-five or older.

[Robert Bly]
Iron John, p.60

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If a prisoner wants to free his companions in misfortune, he must first break out of his own chains. It's the only way to do it. You have to gain in strength to act appropriately.

The spiritual path begins with a period of retreat from the world, like a wounded deer looking for a solitary, peaceful spot to heal her wounds. Here, the wounds are those inflicted by ignorance.

To be able to help beings, there should no longer be any difference between what you teach and what you are. A beginner might feel an immense desire to help others, but generally doesn't ave sufficient spiritual maturity to be able to do so.

In the case of the lama I spent most time with, Khyentse Rinpoche, he spent some seventeen years in solitary retreat in his youth, interrupted only by visits to his teachers from time to time. Then, when he was thirty-five, his teacher told him, 'Now the time has come for you to transmit your knowledge and experience to others.'

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.154

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[...] I must point out that would-be teachers of my work must be trained to put the principles and procedures of its technique into practice in the use of themselves in their daily activities before they attempt to teach others to do likewise.

Herein lies the difference between the proposed training and all other forms of training. For students may take courses of training in medicine, physiology, theology, law, philosophy, or anything else without the matter of the use of themselves being called into question. But in the training for this teaching a considerable amount of work must be done on the students individually so that they may learn to use themselves satisfactorily, and it is only when they have reached a given standard in the use of themselves that they will be given the opportunity for practical teaching experience.

A training in the satisfactory direction of the use of his own mechanisms is essential to the medical man's personal equipment [...]

[F. Matthias Alexander]
The Use of the Self, p.88, 117

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