Friday, November 6, 2020

Creativity on the Most Nerve-wracking Days of our Lives

I am not creative. Trump is not creative. Biden is not creative. I guess that David Sedaris is. I have friends who are, and they earn no more attention than I do. The kind of attention merited by the economy has little to nothing to do with creativity.

Of course I'm wanting to distinguish creativity proper from entertainment, simple. These are different kinds of delights. Does creativity always have to be so rarified. Making contact only with those who share some sort of enlightened vision?

I want music. I have the facility for music, and the connectivity to have any kind any time. I rarely listen to it. It's a distraction these days, and I've only ever truly enjoyed music among modest crowds. Alone, I just can't get into it. I'm not a walk down the street with ear buds kind of guy. There's always too much going on, which must be why I am always on the move.

Why would I ever want to lock myself inside my own diminutive world. As I am doing now, in a late-open campground while the space I had been living in is quarantined. Who's in quarantine? What did I do wrong? What kind of fool am I?

I watched my last unwatched Star Wars movie last night. Ron Howard directed it; the backstory about Solo. It was clumsy and frustrating to watch, because while I have fast and unlimited LTE on my phone, the cheap TV I use swaps between 720 and 1380P and the movies don't play at 720, which means restarting the TV. This happens if I pause and the phone also sleeps.

I only recently realized that I might prevent the frame freeze, which requires restarting the streaming app, by putting the phone in sleep mode to disable all alerts. Some apps freeze, some don't, and it's often hard to tell if these issues are by design or by oversight. Plenty of streaming apps disable connecting an external screen, and some disable one way but not another. 

This goes way beyond troubleshooting. Plus it's hard to tell if I'm getting slower, or the world is getting more convoluted. It's exhausting. Takes all my energy that should be going into political activism, which is hardly possible out here in the country. Though the park doubles as the local polling place. The COVID-closed 'casino' (that's the term around here for indoor gathering spots in gorgeous parks) must have been reopened for the election. The campsite dumpster was full of political signage, day after.

I am so slow. Like I only recently figured out how to windproof the awning for my trailer. I am loathe to pull it down because, especially with the snow and now the rain, the sheltered space outside my door is nice. These things take me a while to figure out. I’ve crisscrossed the country at least four times with this rig, and each time it got windy I would fret. Eventually I'd have to remove the awning and lose my front porch.

No longer! I have braved 35 mile an hour gusts, according to the iPhone weather.

That doesn't make me creative. Just a pretty good problem-solver. Problem solving doesn't plug into the economy any better than creativity does. Apparently. And I hate working around and among creative sorts. I'm never included in the cool stuff. I feel like an administrative drone.

The kind of entertainment I get from Star Wars is reliable and likely highly valued in this economy. It's also hard to find music which doesn't simply match that endorphin hit. I can only find that kind of music live. Then it doesn't feel like an endorphin hit. So, where's the line between drug and real? 

The creative hits I feel seem to involve beauty, whatever beauty is. Some kind of double-take surprise. It's likely not unrelated to catching sight of a beautiful person, whatever that might mean to you. Right on that edge between the endorphin hit of sexuality and something more toward creative beauty.

There are far far more intelligent people than I am, and still more who are more creative. So why would I even try to capture anyone's attention? What could I possibly have to say that would inspire a double-take? Why bother? 

I keep trying to read Camus' Plague, and I keep putting it down. It drones so. Yes, we all will die, yes we all face death each and every day, and yes we wish to live somewhat more carefree on a daily basis. I miss the possibility for live music, for restaurant conviviality, for gatherings in homes. Death is just too present now, and we don't want to spoil our chance to skip this over so that we may savor something that we might have taken too much for granted before the plague. 

There are women I have known and loved who hover still at some distance about my life. I never did get that balance right. What resentment was it, from either side, which caused those connections to grow distant? I live alone in tiny house, and that feels like liberty somehow. There are no social pressures. There is no one else around to tiptoe past. 

I still nurse some resentment for how my ex impoverished me while our daughters grew, and yet we get along better now than we ever did. That resentment never makes it front and center. I am glad for her newish husband and their finally perfect house (the one I rebuilt is sold, no credit to me). I poise myself always at a distance, though I am made happy by every contact from my daughters.

Why do I care who wins the election? My life nears its end in any case, and there is less than no hope that we will reform and reformulate our economy in ways to recreate the common good. I don't really even know how to fight for that any more. As do we all, I await a miracle.

As Žižek says, as Jameson said, and more recently as Mark Fisher said even better, "It's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of Capitalism."

Am I that blind to the miracles in evidence all around me? Why do I see only death and decay? Is the world - nature - angry with us? The tide of human overwhelm feels so relentless. Trump is so disorderly and chaotic, and so evidently not what we should mean by human. How is this even a contest? Is my constant anger just an inheritance from Dad? Why was he always angry. Was it projected disappointment in himself?

I am mild mannered and accepting of all sorts of people. Even people who I'm close to who might go along with Trumpism. Why then do I get so angry at those who are really close to me? It must be that the actual chance to change a mind is related somehow to the relative degree of frustration when change is resisted.

I can be convinced. I change my mind a lot. I have to assume that other people can as well, and that I'm therefore just simply not convincing enough. If I care too much then it turns to anger, and I start picking up and picking on whatever it is that seems wrong in someone else's treatment of me. How dare you?!?

Is that just what anger is? Dad was a tyrant, sanctioned as that in those good old days. Trump is a tyrant wannabe, no longer sanctioned, and his only requirement, like Dad perhaps, is to be adored. Well, except Dad was willing to stick to his guns even if not adored. Maybe so is Trump. But the one was principled.

I guess its because Trump obeys no set of rules, and then to me the rules all feel like they benefit someone else. Some good life that I can't have. That I want. Or the good life that I feel sometimes is robbed from me by rules I just don't understand. Trump must channel that childish selfish part of us all, which just wants to be free for who we are and how we feel. The big endorphin hit in the sky, I guess. It feels so destructive, though I do actually understand what must be the thrill of surrounding a Biden bus among other celebrants of insouciant revolt, ready to dare and be dared. Chariots of fire.

Must we always be called out for doing a double take on some woman's ass? If one has daughters, one must. There is difference there from dancing. From threat to innocent attraction. What we indulge in our private moments of reading about it, versus what we may indulge in public.

These things aren't what matters. Sure I would love it if I were among the people who can afford ski condos and look forward to family gatherings replete with copious music, food, and drink. I could blame my ex that I'm not among them, but then she doesn't have the use I have of Mom's beachside house (well, I don't either now that the Canadian border is closed). I offer it to her anyhow, whenever I can.

My anger must be displaced. I have nothing to complain about. But displaced from where?

That sort of life that I might sometimes envy is just not what I'm into. I'm glad to pay it a visit every once in a while, but It's all never quite worked out for me.

Aren't I really describing what divides our country?  I mean if my ex and I can get along, then so can the red and the blue states. 

Let's assume that we share the same love of country. We love freedom, even as we differ in the particulars about what freedom means. The blue states seem to value more the freedom of the press while the red states seem to value the right to bear arms. But that's just me talking true Blue, and hardly fair. I'm fine with guns. I'm not fine with so many random shooting deaths. Surely we can find someplace in the middle where we might agree.

If only we could trust one another.

Religion has to be fitted in here somehow. Beyond guns, there remain the litmus tests of abortion, patriarchal order, recreational tastes (somehow I always contrast jet skiing with wind surfing, snowmobiles with snow skiing, mountain biking with motorbiking, and my favorite, sailing with powerboating) and something like parochialism which is diluted by urban living.

We are that close. We care. That's why we're so angry.

We thought that if we could fix the mistake of Trump's election we could get things back to 'normal.' But normal is the problem. The biggest possible mistake would be to gloat over Trump's defeat. We have to work to redefine a new and more inclusive 'normal.' 

Sure, I enjoy hearing what Biden has to say. It sounds nice to me. But we apparently need to broaden the discussion by really listening to what those who don't like him have to say. For sure it was a tactical error to put so much "diversity" front and center for the Democrats. As a whole, the country clearly wasn't ready for that. Even though as a whole, we are that.

The country isn't ready to end our addiction to oil. The country wants to hang on to what was always just beyond our grasp. Else what's a meta for? As the religionists often want to ask, "what do we stand for?"

This all has been inevitable tragedy more than some sort of going wrong. We have to stop blaming each other. It was who ran. It was who got the support. On either "side." 

Or at least I retain somehow my belief that there wasn't some party strategist behind the selection process. Was there? Can we trust anyone? It is clearly not "the people" who have the power.

The divide is tragic, then. Nobody is to blame. The proof is that record turnout didn't apparently change much. The divide feels branded in the soul of our nation.

Even those who have given up on the electoral process weren't wrong. Both "sides" were and are champions of capitalism as practiced in the United States, and it will take a long haul to transform that ideological fixation. Neither an election nor the electoral process can do it. 

So, is democracy dead? Did it ever live? 

We may be about to find out.

COVID 19, meanwhile unites us as one body. That can only be an ironic uniting. We share the quality of host to this virus which can't thrive without us. Meanwhile, some would charge blindly into that night, keeping up their congregating, which is surely a more important sort of togetherness than to share a quality as host to disease. Defy the common sense of masks and distance, and at least we can die as one.

Winnow out the old and weak, as though that is how evolution works? The old don't count, and the weak don't reproduce as widely. Winnow out the poor, as though our wealth were built on nothing? Half of us refuse even to let the experts get to work. The experts are the ones they don't trust.

Meanwhile, online businesses are thriving, and pull their wares back "in-house" when they can't achieve sufficient volume retail. Sacrifice the storefronts along with the bars and restaurants and we will accept all forms of delivery. Delivery from what? One thing is clear: that while California may vote reliably Democrat, they don't mind enslaving contract workers to Big Tech. 

Big Tech - so much bigger than Big Box - is reliably Blue. California must feel internally divided, just as each one of us individually must. Just as workers inside Google do. And Amazon. And Facebook. They all thought that they would be joining something exciting and cutting edge and new. They found that they were only drones, whose voices are as meaningless as those of any other robot. Worker. Slave. Their individual narrative can never achieve the quality of a novel. What's in a name?

In translating a Chinese story into English, I once used the name - as the Chinese author did - of the Muslim God as part of one of the character's name, and was excoriated in the comments for that. I knew the readers were all young, and must have been more woke than I am. I read into their comments the same thing I hear from my daughter when I say something politically incorrect. I didn't feel threated by religion, though perhaps I should have?

We don't even know who to hate now, really, do we? Who to be angry with? If my God has no Name, does that make me some kind of enemy?

I sure do hope not. But at least I'll never be accused of creative license. At least I can make no creative error. I can only be tasteless and vulgar. And so can you!

So finally, here's my expression of hope. There will be a bipartisan coming together on the wrong of Big Tech. Facebook and Google and Amazon will be seen for the evil that they represent. We will learn to understand that the either/or on/off of digital divides from life. 

Mind is never either/or. Religion wants us to be. Digital is the manifestation of that very dangerous impulse on the most diminutive possible level. Logic cannot solve our problems. Dogma is dangerous. Love is never a bad thing. The root of all creativity.

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