Monday, November 9, 2009

Catatonically Speaking

by Alison Ross

Do you ever feel that work (and I'm talking about the work we MUST do to survive) inhibits and even prohibits your pursuit of leisure and intellectual activities?

Of course you do - you're human. Some among us, of course, thrive on the work we do for a living. And that's fine - I'm not chiding those who do. If you regard work as the centerpiece of your life, then more power to you. But for me and I suspect the majority of Clockwise Cat readers, the actual travail we must do in order to survive encroaches on our extracurricular indulgences. Naturally most of us are writers and artists and thinkers, and so we'd rather be submerged in those cerebral pursuits than working as a drone.

Now, some of you may be fortunate to be paid well enough to live on your writing or painting. But I would wager most of us are not.

I feel cursed sometimes with a rapacious passion for the arts. Visual art, music, books, films - I devour them with voracious vigor. Now this in itself is a good thing, but when you can't devote a significant portion of your day to it, it's furiously frustrating.

It's not that I denigrate the idea of work so much as I denigrate the "rat race" that impels us to compromise our aesthetic ethic, as well as slurps the creativity right out of us.

We must work to survive - it has always been that way - but must work always be so antithetical to the creative impetus?

Granted, some work is creative at its core, but the vast majority of jobs render us into automatons perpetually on the "zombie" setting.

And so on top of having to work at a monotonous job, we are forced to forego our cherished creative interests. We can read and write and paint on our free time, to be sure, but our free time is severely curtailed owing to the imposition of "rat race" ideals.

Life should not be about mere survival. Life is colorfully chaotic and should be experienced in extremes.

If this sounds as though I am audaciously endorsing hedonism, I am. Indeed, Rimbaud called for a total derangement of the senses.

Granted, we don't want to annihilate ourselves completely - we can't all be facsimiles of Rimbaud - but we could be way more capriciously indulgent than we are. Call it Temperate Hedonism - an oxymoron, and yet, I think it could be a practical philosophy, notable for its very impracticality.

For why should we have to be so damn practical all the time? Why should we have to adhere so rigidly to schedules, and feel such a push toward radical conformity? It's one thing to conform to a degree (arguably it facilitates fluid navigation in life), but to blend in so blindly, to assimilate so anonymously? This to me is unthinkably unfathomable. Why should we choose to suppress our own birth-gifted individuality in favor of merging with the herd?

Yet, this is what that majority does - and because they do, it's expected of all of us. This is true in the corporate world (the most straightjacketed setting there is), at public and private schools, and most workplace environments.

It's sorely lamentable, this obedient succumbing to mechanical orthodoxy. As we have established, some amount of societal allegiance ensures sane survival, but most people seem quaintly content to resign themselves submissively to conventional modes, imaginative and even chimerical living be damned. We should be leading fiercely artistic lives, not gravely generic ones analogous to barcodes.

Of course, excessive conformity of the sort I am discussing finds its genesis in that most toxic of human emotions, fear. When we subjugate ourselves to fear (which actually is a natural enough emotion and can even be healthy if properly indulged), we are basically signing our souls away. When we allow fear to suffuse our identities, then radical conformity becomes inevitable, leading to a suppression of our humanity. And when we suppress our humanity, then the inconceivable - torture, war - become conceivable.

Now, I myself am no paragon of Temperate Hedonism, but I do rebel in my own "quietly boisterous" ways, through my thinking, writing, decoration, fashion, and so on. Some of it is a more nuanced rebellion and some of it more brazen, but I do try to indulge my hedonistic imagination as I can.

In the context of crushing conformity, which saps all color and vitality, imagination becomes a scintillatingly subversive agent. We must use the revolution of imagination to overthrow the tyranny of conformity. It's as though we have forgotten that, as Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." We have subordinated fiery creativity to dry, thawed facts and in the process, rendered ourselves into these ridiculous robots. Ridiculous, because we have unfettered capacity to be so much more.

So throw off those shackles, tell your boss to fuck herself, and LIVE LIFE! It's your last goddamn chance.

"LIFE IS SO COLORFUL" (The Dalai Lama)



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