i have opinions like breaths, it’s ’ easier to glide past them the less i talk.
i ran up the mountain and down the mountain. i picture my legs breaking, falling, slipping, bones splintering. i see winter animals, squirrels and crows. i try to see the city as though it’s a new face, and to trace it’s creases, note it’s shifting expression, gauging it’s age and it’s character from the buildings that adorn her. today she was soft and cool, guarded by a haze of snowflakes, scoffing softly at my slow progress.
From an interesting essay by Thomas Frank in the June 2013 issue of Harper’s:
What was really sick-making, though, was [the] easy assumption that creativity was a thing our society valued. Our correspondent had been hearing this all his life, since his childhood in the creativity-worshipping 1970s. He had even believed it once, in the way other generations had believed in the beneficence of government or the blessings of Providence. And yet his creative friends, when considered as a group, were obviously on their way down, not up. The institutions that made their lives possible — chiefly newspapers, magazines, universities, and record labels — were then entering a period of disastrous decline. The creative world as he knew it was not flowering, but dying.
When he considered his creative friends as individuals, the literature of creativity began to seem even worse — more like a straight-up insult. Our writer-to-be was old enough to know that, for all its reverential talk about the rebel and the box breaker, society had no interest in new ideas at all unless they reinforced favorite theories or could be monetized in some obvious way. The method of every triumphant intellectual movement had been to quash dissent and cordon off truly inventive voices. This was simply how debate was conducted. Authors rejoiced at the discrediting of their rivals (as poor Jonah Lehrer would find in 2012). Academic professions excluded those who didn’t toe the party line. Leftist cliques excommunicated one another. Liberals ignored any suggestion that didn’t encourage or vindicate their move to the center. Conservatives seemed to be at war with the very idea of human intelligence. And business thinkers were the worst of all, with their perennial conviction that criticism of any kind would lead straight to slumps and stockmarket crashes…
And what was the true object of this superstitious stuff? A final clue came from Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1996), in which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi acknowledges that, far from being an act of individual inspiration, what we call creativity is simply an expression of professional consensus. Using Vincent van Gogh as an example, the author declares that the artist’s “creativity came into being when a sufficient number of art experts felt that his paintings had something important to contribute to the domain of art.” Innovation, that is, exists only when the correctly credentialed hivemind agrees that it does. And “without such a response,” the author continues, “van Gogh would have remained what he was, a disturbed man who painted strange canvases.” What determines “creativity,” in other words, is the very faction it’s supposedly rebelling against: established expertise.
Consider, then, the narrative daisy chain that makes up the literature of creativity. It is the story of brilliant people, often in the arts or humanities, who are studied by other brilliant people, often in the sciences, finance, or marketing. The readership is made up of us — members of the professional-managerial class — each of whom harbors a powerful suspicion that he or she is pretty brilliant as well. What your correspondent realized, relaxing there in his tub one day, was that the real subject of this literature was the professional-managerial audience itself, whose members hear clear, sweet reason when they listen to NPR and think they’re in the presence of something profound when they watch some billionaire give a TED talk. And what this complacent literature purrs into their ears is that creativity is their property, their competitive advantage, their class virtue. Creativity is what they bring to the national economic effort, these books reassure them — and it’s also the benevolent doctrine under which they rightly rule the world.
so far, as expected not having opinions is not a barrel of monkeys.
i recreate the world with my opinions, a clever and thin cosmology that i conveniently can’t hold up to the light to see the gaping holes.
to spout my grand theories on the nature of forks or fear or sports is how i come alive. to suddenly mumble i don’t know instead of bellowing WELL I HAVE A THEORY ABOUT THAT is all too honest for me.
biting my tongue:
- the nature of insecurity
- the “george costanza” comedians in cars getting coffee
- the olympics
- my chai latte
giving up opinions starting now
i’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Don’t be affronted Being affronted (or offended, or complaining about ‘inappropriateness’) is no response for a grown-up. Only children believe the world should conform to their own view of it: a sort of magical thinking that can only lead to warfare, terrorism, unmanageable short-term debt and the Blair/Bush alliance
Mistrust anything catchy, whether it’s the Axis of Evil, advertising slogans, or blatant branding (‘New Labour’). Catchiness exists to prevent thought and to disguise motive. Grown-ups can think for themselves
Ignore celebrities, except when they are doing what they are celebrated for doing: acting, playing football et cetera. Skill does not confer moral, political or intellectual discrimination. (Except in the case of writers. Writers know everything and can lecture you with impunity.) If a celebrity is not celebrated for doing anything but being a celebrity, smile politely but pay no notice
We should not assume that market forces will decide wisely. The market is rigged by manipulation and infantilisation
Consider our own motivations. We may rail about being treated like children, ordered about, kept from the truth, nannied and exploited… but are we complicit in it? Could the reward actually be infantilisation itself?
Autonomy is the primary marker of being grown up. Babies, children and adolescents don’t have any. We don’t want to be in their boat
Suspect administration Its purpose is to free the organisation to do what it’s meant to do: but the triumph of the administrators - the lawyers, the accountants, the professional managers - means that too many organisations now believe that what they are meant to do is administer themselves. This is a profoundly infantile attitude
Do not love yourself unconditionally. Such love is for babies and comes from their mothers. Ignore fashion, particularly in clothes. You don’t want to look like a teenager for ever
Never do business with a company offering ‘solutions’ as in ‘ergonomic furniture solutions which minimise the postural strain associated with sitting’ (chairs) and ‘Post Office mailing solutions’ (brown paper). The word suggests we have a problem, but since we are grown-ups, that is for us to decide
Denounce relativism at every turn. Shouting ‘not fair’ is childish. Demanding respect without earning it is childish. Don’t fear seriousness. Babies aren’t allowed to be serious
Watch our language. Is there really much difference between a six-year-old in a fright-wig and his father’s waders shouting ‘I’m the Mighty Wurgle-Burgle-Urgley-Goo’ and an ostensible grown-up demanding to be called ‘Tony Blair’s Respect Tsar’?
Hide Grown-ups are not required to be perpetually accountable, while the instincts of government and big business, both of which are, almost by their nature, great infantilisers, are to keep an eye on everyone all the time
Eat it up There is nothing more babyish than having dietary requirements
Never vote for, do business with or be pleasant to anyone who uses the words ‘ordinary people’
a story about the reader
- as you settled into the train and pulled out this book
- as you lumbered into bed and pulled out this book with the hope of it weighing your eyelids and slowing your mind
- as you sat in the coffee shop and read this on your lap top
- as you read this over the shoulder of the woman seated beside you at the passport office
- in the bookstore you opened this book and read the last sentence
- you hope this will take your mind away
- if you read this, you would read anything
- reading this will make you larger than you could ever be, like a cloud trying to be a galaxy.
i like to look at shoes, to see what i can see about a wearer, are they painfully impractical? tired and thin? speckled and work wearied? casual, slip on, unmarked almost unworn..
i see shoes as a quiet disclaimer “does not take public transit”, “practical’ “active in theory”, almost invisible uniforms denoting a mindset.
why do i have opinions?
why do i feel the need to have opinions?
am i, this very second, manufacturing an opinion about having opinions?
i mistake opinions as truth, as friends, as comfort, as who i am.
but really they’re just empty gestures, miming the act of being.
i wonder if ever in the history of history we have ever known less about the world we live in but yet had so many useless opinions?
so i like this, and sneer at that, course correct myself enough to be fluent but without unmaking my self proclaimed distinctness. so these opinions are how i measure me against the larger flock. we believe this, they believe that, i believe this.
so today i’d like to silence that mechanism, loosen one bolt, cut the belt, loose the screw. there is no truth in me.
- smile with your heart. bloody and pumping.
- listen as best you can. turn your eyes into ears.
- look up at the sky like climbing a ladder
- feel the ground below your feet like a springboard