“I would have given anything to die in a war that meaningful”
Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
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“I would have given anything to die in a war that meaningful”
Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
I thought some wrongness in my self had made me that alone.
And God said, You are worth more to me
than one hundred sparrows.
And when I read that, I wept.
And God said, Whom have I blessed more than I have blessed you?
And I looked at the mini bar
and the bad abstract hotel art on the wall
and the dark TV set watching like a deacon.
And God said, Survive. And carry my perfume among the perishing.
This comes from a poem called Bible Study. I’m not as ostensibly churchy as I used to be, but you don’t have to be for this one to hit you right between the lungs.
“I decided a while ago that I would only do things that were really important or really fun.”
This was a really great interview. He came from evangelicalism, expanded outside of it but continued to explore stories of faith from Al Qaeda to ISIS to Scientology. (Wright wrote the book which that great scientology documentary was based on.)
All that work you’re doing on your company, your reputation, your skills, maybe it all comes to a moment like this.
You’re 72, you just finished a project that took you two and a half years of constant, steady work, you’re on the garden roof of a building your company designed, where you’ve spent the majority of your life for the past 20 years, and you can sense how pointless it is to imagine it all somehow staying together.
“It’s just a name” you say with equal parts broken-heart and indifferent wisdom.
And then you get distracted by a perfect moment of sunlight and leaves.
This was from a documentary on Studio Ghibli called The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. If you’ve loved movies like Totoro and Spirited Away, you’ll love this film.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been struck so hard by what it would look like at the end of life to have lived the way I dream of living now… and still being as full of dissatisfaction, sorrow, creativity and friendship.
I said this to my friend who was stressing over having kids or not: “In the end everybody loses. It’s not like some people win and others lose. Everyone loses. Nobody wins in the end. This being so, what kind of adventure do you want to have? For myself (and I didn’t know this at the time), my son is the best adventure I can have. Nothing else in my life is as dangerous or joyful or exhausting, nothing else — no movie, company or creation — elicits the depth of feeling from within me that my sons have.”
The kid stuff is my story. Regardless of where you land on that, the first bit is true: you’re going to lose in the end and you won’t be able to take anything with you. You could build the best goddam company and bring more magic to people than any of your contemporaries… and you’ll still stand somewhere at the end recognizing that whether it persists or falls apart won’t be up to you. And then the wind will brush your hair and face and you’ll get distracted by something beautiful regardless.
This being so, what kind of adventure do you want to have?
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
“I spend hours everyday just trying to fill the increments of time between now and my inevitable death. It’s been 20 minutes since I had a cupcake. Propriety and dignity prohibit me from having another cupcake for 45 to 50 minutes. So I’ve got almost an hour here to kill.”
“Happiness is a myth. It was invented to make people buy things.”
Karla in Shantaram
“What have I gained by health? intolerable dulness. What by early hours and moderate meals?—a total blank.”
“We’re afraid of doubt only because we haven’t learned to love mystery yet.”
Not to “understand that it’s important” or to “get the sense that it undergirds everything” but to “love” mystery.
That is an interesting idea. How do you do that without becoming some unhinged crazy person?
Regardless this conversation was a delight to listen to for me.
“But Boaz had decided that he needed a buddy far more than he needed a means of making people do exactly what he wanted them to.”
There were so many great lines from Boaz in The Sirens of Titan. Here’s some more:
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
“When you get right down to it, everybody’s having a perfectly lousy time of it, and I mean everyone. And the hell of it is, nothing seems to help much.”
“I found me a place where I can do good without doing any harm, and I can see I’m doing good, and them I’m doing good for know I’m doing it, and they love me, Unk, as best they can. I found me a home.”
A quick read and a good one.
‘Advertising began as an art,’ (Rosser) Reeves noted, ‘and too many advertising men want it to remain that way — a never-never land where they can say: “this is right, because we feel it’s right.”’
Actually, said Reeves, advertising is a science like engineering, with some incidental esthetic potential but essentially a tool, an instrument of commerce firmly grounded in practical matters. …] At all costs, admen should avoid ‘the most dangerous word of all in advertising — originality,’ an esthetic conceit deadly to maintaining a proper USP (unique selling proposition).
Like Rosser Reeves, he (Marion Harper) denied that advertising was an art not because he meant to denigrate advertising but because he had some sense of what real art amounted to. ‘What the audience receives from advertising is all-important,’ he explained. ‘This is not the character of the creative arts, in which the artist’s inspiration is paramount, and in which there can be indifference to the audience response.’
Still reading this great book on the history of advertising. Still finding so much of my current churnings in it.
Is it possible to be creatively fulfilled and support a family + live responsibly?
I struggle. I think I might, essentially, be a publisher. A publisher is concerned with numbers and eyeballs and moving product. A publisher is concerned with getting the damned thing out in time… whatever the damned thing my writers happen to be writing.
I used to fancy myself more of a creative. Almost an artist, but that’s, like, a heavy word, man. I used to dig and write or make videos like this one just for the hell of it. I used to create websites for fun.
That stuff was fun because it was new. Or because it was lewd and inappropriate. There’s always lewd and inappropriate in a pinch.
Now that stuff’s not new. I’m building a company and supporting partners and customers and there’s this big mess of people who could receive enormous value from the thing we’ve made and I should get this in front of them in a language they can easily receive and if they have different standards from me, different senses of humor and different experiences to draw from, well then I should meet them in those places rather than insist on them learning my own.
This is what it looks like to grow, to get big, to succeed.
Don’t wallow in your whiny artist-isms about “digging” and “the truth” and “what feels good right now” and all that immaturity… don’t be so conceited.
Do that on the side. In your spare time.
Rosser Reeves, quoted at the very top, the villain of 50s advertising (responsible for several of the largest successes) WROTE POETRY ON THE SIDE. Wrote a novel. Put together the first team of chess players from the US to tour Russia. He wrote a short story that was included in a book called The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (11th edition).
Is that what we have to do? Keep our art separate from our work/career?
Is there a sane and sustainable way to mix the two, or do they necessarily pollute one another?
The two quotes above, both from admen in the 50s, point in one direction. My own success points in another. (It was fucking about and exploring that brought me to any success I’ve found… not calculated strategy or an enterprising point of view.)
Here’s one image I find helpful.
I’m a big fan of Louis C.K. I love his comedy. I love his rambly path to success. And I think I’m learning to see the calculation in his (and other successful comedian’s) act. And the one image I have that helps me hold this question in balance is this:
I picture Louis C.K. as the head of a newspaper company. He’s every yelling, cigar-chomping guy in every superman comic or movie about a newspaper. He normally says things like, “This is shit!” and “I need that piece YESTERDAY, Scott!” He’s that guy, except he’s Louis C.K.
One day I break down in his office. “I got into this racket to tell the truth,” I scream. “But all the people seem to want is this bullshit we keep selling them!” The anger gives way to a kind of creative brokenheartedness. Louis recognizes it. He sits down behind his desk, opens the top drawer, hands me a cigar, lights it for me.
“You know how long I’ve been here, kid? 28 years next month. Here’s what I’ve learned: you’ve gotta give them what they want. Appeal to their shit nature, cuz it feels good to them, to push those bruises and pick those scabs. They love it. Get good at that shit, kid, cuz you gotta give them what they want… so they’ll read enough to find what they need. Surprise them with it, their gross reality, OUR depravity and selfishness, the ways we all fool ourselves, you gotta wrap it in shit so they’ll stick around long enough to maybe, just maybe get a nugget of truth in there… between the shovels of shit. I need your next piece on my desk by 3pm. Get out of here.” That last bit said with more than a little father-son fondness.
There’s a little glimpse into one of my sick fantasies… and one of my current struggles.
“Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. What you know doesn’t mean shit. It’s what you do consistently.”
This interview was so good it makes me question the beliefs I carry about these two guys (this quote from an interview Tony had with Tim Ferriss). A couple hucksters? A couple gurus? A couple douchebags dropping facts about investment, NLP and “neuro-hacking?”
I don’t know what I think anymore. Maybe the conversation was perfect promotion. Maybe it was genuine. A girl can hope, can’t she?
“This being so, so what? ”
Zen Something-r-other via Jerry Colonna
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.