One of the most naïve political ideas out there is that a person can have no politics by choice — that you can somehow opt out of the political rat race by not voting or not holding political opinions, etc. It's reminiscent of another, parallel idea I came across when younger — the notion that everyone has a philosophy, whether or not they are aware of it or profess it explicitly.
But given that a lot more people care about politics than they do philosophy, the fact that people have politics whether they like it or not seems a good deal more crucial. And beyond that is another, even deeper issue: politics manifests whenever more than one person is present, whether or not you choose to notice it. The less you choose to make yourself aware of how it manifests and to what end, the more of a sucker you're going to be.Read more
[What Ken Langone, founder of The Home Depot, is raging against is] the idea that understanding economics, as opposed to other issues, might involve some kind of special expertise. This is an all too common problem with the wealthy, and maybe especially among self-made men: they think that their personal financial success means that they understand the economic system, and bristle at the notion that macroeconomics may be more than the sum of individual business strategies.
From time to time I see a parallel form of false wisdom in creative circles as well. If someone has a degree of success, whether it's the modest but solid success of finding a niche audience and catering well to it, or the broader success of the wide-scale commercial variety, it's sometimes easy for them to misattribute the reasons for said success. Instead of admitting they got lucky, they think it's all about them.Read more
I have the bad habit of seeking comfort where I know I shouldn't. Viz.: re-reading a book, or just dipping back into one I've read many times to read here and there, instead of starting a new one that I know will be worth the while. Life being unpredictably short, it does you no favors to cheat yourself out of the chance to experience something new. Ebert once called that sort of behavior a crime against one's curiosity, and how many criminals of that kind are minted every day?Read more
This past week I learned of the death of one person, an Internet quasi-celebrity whose antics I'd followed for some time; and the impending death of another, a cult author whose work has existed in obscurity but thanks to the Internet has gained a bit more of a following. The first one died of an illness he knew as of over a decade ago would kill him eventually; the second had major cancer surgery not long ago, and appended "This is the last piece I will publish in my lifetime" to the most recent blog post he made. He knows his time is very short.
I'm at an age now — not "old", but certainly not "young" — where many of the living people I took guidance and inspiration from earlier in my life are beginning to die. I'm not taking it as well as I thought I would. It becomes easy to accept, unquestioningly, that someone like Mick Jagger will always be alive — or maybe better to say Keith Richards; it's like he just stopped aging at some point — or that the guy in the mirror will always be alive.Read more
Barely a day goes by when something doesn't show up in one of my RSS feeds (or my G+ feed, or my Facebook timestream, or event like, or whatever the hell they're calling it now) relating to the nature of creativity. Most of the time it takes the form of some prescriptive advice: do this and you'll be creative. Sometimes it's speculative: what do creative people do that other people don't? Well, creating, for one, but I imagine such a tautology scarcely needs elaboration on my end.
But most of my concern about this sort of thing revolves around something I've come to call cargo cult creativity, or CCC for short. It's the idea that you can approach creativity like you can approach dieting: do this, not that, and soon you'll be creative and 30 pounds thinner. Some part of me resents this thinking, and I've had a hard time determining if it was whether or not it's me being protective of my territory; e.g., the last thing I need is people coming along being all "creative" on me when I have a hard enough time of it myself.Read more