In the spirit of not shying away from aggressive questioning and open dialogue, as this is quite representative of many private exchanges between artists, I present a recent email exchange. The reader has agreed to participate here anonymously (thank you).
Subject line: Harsh Feedback
(Forgive my familiarity in greeting you like that.)
I have been a regular reader and subsriber for several months now. I "virtually" fell in love with you via your writing and had to keep up with everything you wrote about. Your insight into the simplicity of life and social interactions etc were inspiring or at least encouraging. Your sensitivity to others and your willingness to express sincere feelings about life were captivating.
Now the complaint. Lately, you have been writing more about yuor marketing ideas. I know that when I started reading your blog that marketing was the ostensible theme, but it was not very evident. To be quite blunt, I am somewhat offended by the appropriation of spirituality and art by commercial ventures for the sole purpose of enriching the capitalists. I feel it is ingenuine and expoitative.
It's nigh impossible to make everyone happy.
Which isn't my intent. Hard enough to make myself happy, eh?
Oh, I'd hazard a guess what you are picking up is some of my own resistances and reluctances. Writing from the surf's edge of your own fear doesn't have the same presence, same voice.
I'll get to those in a sec. [On second thought, I only addressed maybe one fear in this exchange.]
And I'm spending more time at home alone (sans car in a very very suburban area) and I really thrive around people (you can see why I want the community teahouse), and it's winter (alas no flowers to talk to either), yada yada.
Where do you really stand? Is CASH so important? When you said you could barely afford to help Wyatt for his trip ne N'lins, was that just a temporary mishap?
I'm not so sure that I find the strict renunciate path so noble. It has it's own willfulness, and thus it's own darkness. Buddha had gathered quite a few disciples even before the big e-day at the bodhi tree. They'd all abandoned him when he quit being an ascetic.
This is not about cash and not not about cash.
I wrote the other day to Wyatt since he spoke of "wyld adventures" that my life is becoming a "perpetual expedition in grace."
Sometimes grace wants to hand me a check, or give me work. Whom am I to decline the gifts of grace?
I don't tend to talk about the romance part of my life online, but last year a beautiful soul kissed me at the W Hotel (a capitalist, a philathropist) with net worth I'd guess in the 8 figures, and last year a beautiful soul kissed me at the Hotel Utah whom was currently homeless and headed back to Nola to begin entirely anew.
It was interesting noting the reactions of my friends. Everyone had an opinion of whom was worthy and whom was not, typically based on their own opinions and preconceptions revolving money and self-worth and the state of the world.
I fall silent more and more when people ask me to take sides, it's becoming increasingly impossible to choose whom to love anymore. I love people indiscriminately, on both sides, including those I'm not supposed to love, whom I don't even agree with, and who don't even share my ideology.
When I walked into Alex Grey's gallery, the Sacred Chapel of Mirrors, in Manhattan two days after 9/11/06, I knew immediately he was (what is classically termed) awake because in huge lettering in an archway entrance it read:
SURRENDER TO LOVE
I think in the end, all the misguided meanderings that people take on the journey (and boy I have plenty of tales and they're not all pretty and light), is because we suspect there is something true and desirous in that, SURRENDER TO LOVE, and we just don't know how.
There is something that wants to manifest itself in the world through me, we could call it a teahouse, but until you see it yourself, I cannot explain it adequately. If left to my own devices, I think I'd be perfectly content hiding out in a cave in Tibet, or like the
Chasing The Lotus movie triggered for me, was my tendency to escape and go surfing in Bali or Maui or Costa Rica.
Engaging with the world, heck, people might judge me, perceive me as being abnormal. [Which I am ;-)] But this vision isn't mine, it has a life of its own. And it wants to be born.
As to surfing the edge of my own fears, this is what I wrote to a friend:
They write back:
I'm getting a sense the "lack of money" is a convenient way to get off the hook.
Therefore, whew, I don't have to step up to this big hairy audacious goal and calling. (Do you 'believe' in calling?)
I think I remember grokking that when I saw the "Conversations with God" movie, the main character went through a homeless phase.
But seeing the end of the movie and where his journey took home, I could sympathesize why someone would (unconsciously) chose homelessness rather than touring and speaking and lecturing about God to audiences around the world (out loud!).
Well, ultimately, I guess it's never about the money itself is it? It is what it represents to us.
Still knowing this (not entirely new revelation) hasn't gotten me unstuck yet.
Helpful even to me just to be writing all this down. Thanks!
My ideas around 'marketing' are so out there, I'm not sure anyone in the field would consider it marketing. It just looks like talking to people one on one, and going into business with friends to them. So it is. So it is.
It's never about money.
Just as greenbacks used to be a proxy for gold and now are a proxy for a mythical concept (a dollar is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States—the largest debtor nation on the planet), money is a proxy for labor or craft or service.
Money, unfortunately, is also a proxy for "value" and in this society that sometimes means self-esteem. Your rejection of money could be a rejection of the whole system—not a crazy idea.
But I think you're onto something even deeper when you look at the lack as being a means of releasing you from responsibility. What other, if any, responsibility does it release you from? Other than touring and speaking about God (i.e., or whatever your calling is); what other things don't you have to do because you lack money?
I like to keep the moniker of "marketer" around just because it irks so many people. Would it be possible to maybe fall in love with someone (egads, a marketer!) that they're supposed to vilify?
I just read this in my inbox today (funny coincidence):
"Perhaps my dead comedian friend Bill Hicks had the right angle, "If you work in advertising or marketing; causing us all to work at jobs we hate just so we can buy shit we don't need (okay, I'm adlibbing here . . . that last part is stolen from "The Fight Club") -- do the whole freakin' world a favor -- just kill yourself."* (There is no punch line so don't scroll down looking for it.)
*(Okay . . . I'm not REALLY advocating that you kill yourself (even though Bill was) -- a small flesh wound will be pennance enough. Could you just find something else -- anything else -- to do for a living? Something with the potential to actually provide some benefit for humanity? What a concept, eh?)"
much love, e
p.s. I think it's a whole other exchange to address this statement, but will get to it too:
"I am somewhat offended by the appropriation of spirituality and art by commercial ventures for the sole purpose of enriching the capitalists. I feel it is ingenuine and expoitative."