Not always, but more often lately, I think about – with growing gratitude – the fact that I became an adult without the Interweb. It feels bizarre, almost heretical, to type those words – even though a lot of people on the planet are like me. Still, one of the most important steps in the process of living in conscious awareness (what I call ‘living bravely’) has to be the acceptance that life actually needs to be lived – in all of its mess and glory. So much information, instead of being hard-won through experience, is now at our fingertips. We don’t really have to live it, to know what it is, what it feels like, and what it means…according to the vast reservoir of public opinion and knowledge and expertise in cyberspace. It’s an easy, comfortable way to exist. I’m exaggerating-for-effect just a little, but in actuality, the experiences we had, before were able to check-in with social media to see what other people think and feel, were very different.
Many years ago, there was a kind of ‘cult’ film titled, “My Dinner With André”. It was considered very avant garde at the time – an ‘art film’—which always puts a lot of people off. Not me. It was an essential experience that I subjected my boyfriends to, as a sort of litmus-test. When it came out in 1981, of course, but even in later years – in conversation – if men couldn’t talk about the film intelligently (even if they hated it), I took note.
“My Dinner With André” takes place in a restaurant where two friends share a meal…one that last for hours, to the consternation of the wait-staff. André, the central character, has definite ideas about living, versus just going-through-the-motions; and, the way that technology (not the Interweb, still ten more years in the future) impacts how deep we go. Wallace, his companion, admires André, but struggles to understand what he’s being told. So André breaks it down for Wally with a simple analogy.
“Suppose I’m in bed with my lover and the night is very cold. The bed is cold, everywhere but between our bodies. So, what do we do? We snuggle closer; the heat of our bodies sparking and feeding something primitive – memories of when we sat together in front of a fire and helped each other feel less afraid.” Ok, Wally says, What’s your point? “Now imagine,” André continues, “that my lover and I decide to try an electric blanket – what happens? We don’t need each other for warmth anymore; we can move away, to those cold edges, because the warmth automatically goes with us.” Wally’s eyes light up as he gets it.
When I was young, my parents had many such friends – intellectuals who were also writers, painters and sculptors – philosophers, even, when the wine continued to flow after a meal. While my brothers were off doing whatever adolescent boys do, I hung around on the fringes of these dinner parties, listening with fascination.
There were two men, in particular, I think of often now; since I’ve been a Blogger. One was a sculptor, the other a painter. Oddly enough, they were both named ‘David’: David G. and David B. These artists were very different in temperament – the sculptor (David G.), serene, spiritual and monk-like; the painter (D.B.), wild and given to excess with drink, drugs and love affairs. But there was one thing, which I noticed as I grew older and understood more about the creative process, that they both had in common: the conflict between the creative flow (inspiration, or a muse of some kind), versus the need to meet public demand based on public tastes and ideas about ‘art’.
Neither ‘David’ had traditional kinds of jobs: their livelihoods were dependent on their creations. Over time, I watched both men get commissioned to create art: specific pieces, for corporations and other institutions, or for private donors. They both seemed resentful, having to create according to demand. But like André Gregory’s ‘electric blanket’, it was a safe, secure and comfortable way to live. Even if the warmth, and the predictability of warmth, created a kind of dependence. The Tradeoff.
Recently I was browsing other writers’ Blogs, curious for a sense of how and why Other People write: especially those people boasting millions of followers and actually making money from the effort. I learned that many successful Bloggers don’t themselves write: they create forums for other writers instead. Some Bloggers write, but they also have Writing Teams that produce content based on algorithms and social media data. So what’s my goal here, I wondered? Am I “ok” with creating what gently sails up and out into cyberspace and ultimately disappears like a helium balloon ? Should I study the ‘formulas’ that Blogging Professionals suggest, as a way of generating things like Traffic and Bounce? I’ve asked myself this question for a few months, finally coming to my own conclusions.
The last sculpture that David G. created was for a Swiss company. They’d seen his work and commissioned a piece that, to me, sounded like a knock-off of The Winged Victory of Samothrace. David, who lived in a small foothill town of California, had an enormous (we’re talking at least a ton) block of glistening white marble delivered to his property and work began. Long story short, after almost a year, the Swiss company sent an envoy out to California, to see the progress firsthand (the agreed-upon price was 50k, so seeing was believing, for sure.) I wasn’t there, but I heard about the big ‘flap’ that erupted between the artist and the patron when the meeting took place. Apparently, David’s ‘vision’ for the piece superceded what the client wanted and he almost didn’t get paid by the company. For the rest of his life, he created art that ‘felt’ good to him and found other ways of supplementing his income (he bought into a vegetarian restaurant).
‘Feeling’, for me, is a big part of writing. To use André’s electric blanket metaphor, I want to feel the cold — the discomfort of certain experiences that cause me to write – urging me to gather my thoughts closer to my heart, until I feel the warm glow of being able to ‘get them out’ in print. I don’t want to be able to press a button and turn a dial to create just the right comfort zone for myself with my writing. I like the idea that there might be others ‘out there’ who write for similar reasons.