That's Forbes.com Thought of the Day today. Quite remarkable, eh? Something to wonder... (Hint: that stuff ain't green strips of crinkly paper nor metal discs.)
Forbes.com? Well if truth be told when other twenty-something girls were reading Cosmopolitan and my cubemates read Byte, I was devouring Fortune. Later I switched to Fast Company and Industry Standard (and even Wired) as soon as those came into being. These days I don't read those either.
Found objects can be media and media can be found objects too; so I just happened to spot Forbes' 90th anniversary issue devoted to networks at a brand new newstand on Decatur Street manned by a brother and sister team.
So something about that Forbes anniversary issue brings me face-to-face with my guilt. These days I play (you might witness activity that resembles work), and I imagine (you might witness activity that resembles innovation).
"Oh, so you're a lightworker," one says.
"Aha, you're a starseed," another says.
Nope, believe it or not, the sun ain't a lightworker either. The sun simply shines. If I believed I was working, I'd quit. (I must cease justifying being. I Am. Period. What's to explain?)
Yet, yet, I want to defend imagination as being USEFUL. Oh, yes, I could write a treatise in defense of imagination. And part of me knows that would be imagination's death knell.
I happened to stumble into the WOMMA Conference. (I kid you not, "my life is science fiction", I did not know it was being held until the night when I run into Jory in the French Quarter.) There, Ron Key from Converseon is giving a talk on Second Life, karmic communication, cultural anthropology, the Second Life Liberation Army among other sundry and related topics. He talks of the backlash against commercial entities on Second Life: "In the context of the fantastic, their brands as they exist in the real world are boring, banal and unimaginative."
Wow! That line would certainly be in my beginning paragraph...if I were writing a treatise defending imagination's utilitarian, practical purposes.
This imagination series has been tough on me. Inspiration, that I can do.
Imagination brings me the brink of what I'm comfortable discussing openly in society. My own imagination brings me to the brink, period. Unless it's imagination in the service of some utility, uh, it smacks of idleness. What's the purpose? What's the point? What's the bottom line?
... than inspiration.
"If the Devil finds a Man idle, he'll set him at Work." - J. Kelly, Scottish Proverbs, 1721 (Although I fancy the Turks proverb better: "The devil tempts all other men, but that idle men tempt the devil." - Colton, Lacon, 1820.) (via The Phrase Finder)
B.C. Forbes' words echo on this network issue backpage ("Thoughts on the Business of Life") admonishing us not to let our opportunity slip, ending with this: "Opportunity can be spelt with four letters. These letters are not L-u-c-k. They are W-o-r-k."
I feel queasy counting the number of times phrases from the backpages (memorializing advice from their 1917 "Thoughts on the Business of Life") are bandied about like "well-directed labor", "habit of work", "rid one's self of a sense of discomfort...do something", "the foe is strong and desperate", "the reward of duty", "hit him first and hit him hard", "I saw there was opportunity...so I became interested in oil."
Oil, Mr. Rockerfeller? Four letters and they are not L-u-c-k, Mr. Forbes? Hmmm, could it maybe, just maybe, be
"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make." - Truman Capote
Luck, I think...hmmm, I recall the artist I met last Saturday. She likes to delve into shamanism, and she said some of the oldest shamanistic traditions are in China.
"The Chinese believe in three things," she tells me. "Luck." She pauses for effect. "Heaven. Earth."
I smile. Three things? They are collapsing into all one and the same.
In the Forbes issue, it also says:
"The Internet thus adapts to market principles. Hello, pop-up ads; farewell, open-source programming. The Internet idealists are doubtless benevolent creatures. So, perhaps, was the apatosaurus. Said Adam Smith, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." - P.J. O'Rourke, "Adam Smith: Web Junkie", Forbes, May 7, 2007
Benevolence?! That's what drives open source? Oh, my, the Internet may surely be your undoing (as it was mine).
Conversation today (& nearly everyday):
"What do you do?"
"Whatever I want to do." (Try saying that guilt-free.)
"You must have savings."
Try again. I'm not a trust fund baby. Do we bake bread, brew beer or do what we do because we're ordered to by management, or The Market? Do we work in order to pay rent, put our kids through college, and other such "own interest"? Why do we do?
"There are different types of enlightenment, but one of the really important ones is just that: It's going from trying to seek enlightenment, where you are driven by a sense of deficiency, of valuelessness, of lack of fullness - to discovering that ever-present wholeness. Then there is that "enlightened duality," where even though you're aware of the great perfection, you are still driven, not out of lack but out of overflowing." - Ken Wilber, "Creative Friction: Community and the Utopian Impulse in a Post-Modern World", What is Enlightenment, April-June 2007
So, I'm done, really, truly, finally, being apologetic. Or guilty.
I don't need to defend imagination for its own sake. Or beauty for its own sake. Or being for its own sake. I'm so with Yeats:
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. - William Butler Yeats, Ode to a Grecian Urn
Bonus: There's a lot more in that Networks issue. Mostly, actually, it's a good issue. Here's some great quotes:
"The Internet has taken place with startingly little planning... The most universal and indispensable network on the planet somehow burgeoned without so much as a board of directors, never mind a mergers-and-acquisitions department." - (from "Other Comments" section of compiled quotes in May 7, 2007 Forbes) James Gleick, New York Times Magazine
"Google is proud of its Ph.D.'s and its eigenvectors. So be it. But mathematics can take you only so far. At some point you need a more human touch - gut instinct or wild imagination." - Jimmy Wales, "Open-Door Policy", Forbes, May 7, 2007
p.s. Hanging out a lot at the Iron Rail Collective and picking up 'zines. Picked up a manifesto by Emma Goldman. "Goldman was taken aside at a dance by a young revolutionary and told it did not become an agitator to dance. Goldman wrote, "I insisted that our cause could not expect me to behave as a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. I want freedom, the right to self expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."
The first few times I read Goldman's quote, I thought it read everybody's right to be beautiful, radiant things.
images Picasso's The Bathers reminds me of imagination ("Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."), and these bathers look devilishly idle; and also his Three Musicians and Three Dancers