Editor's note: This is the fourth and final installment of Charles Campbell's series on the nature of artistic change, this time focusing on survival. Do yourself a favor and look back at Charles' pieces on personal and local and global change.
Change in the context of survival in the context of Skewed Visions in the context of writing for Minnesota Playlist
Maybe the question to ask right off the bat is, “Why survive?“
Publish or perish
If you’ve ever felt like you’re alone in the world, that no one understands you, and that your peers don’t really like you, then most likely – if you’re no longer an adolescent – you’re probably an artist. So you’ve got that going for you. (Either that or you’re an under-socialized misfit trouble-maker goofball that nobody likes who will forever be shunted to the margins because your Neutral Mask is broken. Understanding the myth of the Neutral doesn’t only mean everyone’s got their own special face. It also means you see the line drawn between my rights and you’re wrong.)
But let’s not glorify the outcast either. Because that is drawing lines we don’t need to draw, and merely trying to raise up the low and debase the mighty. Let’s get off that seesaw.
It is a different seesaw I want to dismantle. The logic of survival requires submission to the machine. And the machine tells us what we must do to survive, to thrive, to grow, whatever… only to keep us from looking at its gears.
This is one kind of change: a well-ordered development from youth to age, from ignorance to knowledge, from scrappy to respectable, from alone to together. This is the Change of the Machine. The Logic of a Change that will Save You, that will help you Survive. Most people have been here before. Some of the lucky ones have been broken on its wheels. Some of the luckier ones were rejected early on. And some who have achieved Capital Endowment Campaigns may think they’re lucky, but are mostly just stoking the fires in the engine room.
Here’s another kind of change: random departures from norms, chaotic patterns of miscellany, unexpected periods of stillness. This is the Change of the Machine. The Reverse Logic of a Change etc. etc.
Why all this negativity, Mr. Campbell? What about hope? What about love? What about can’t we all just get along? What about being able to afford a decent day off now and then?
As Nixon said to his urologist, “Let me be perfectly clear.” Faith Hope and Love abide, etc. etc. but the greatest of these can be purchased with sketchy credit at Target. The Revolution is streaming on Netflix. No, Youthful Idealism is not dirty, it’s just another tattoo choice. “The Truth is Out There,” Scully. Need I say more?
The thing is, the Machine is tricky. It changes, too. It changes with us because it’s inside us, part of us. It knows our optimism, so first it will tell us that we can’t. Then when we feel all cynical and shit it says, hey lovers we can be anything we want to be! What’s tricky is not just that it’s changing its tune; it’s tricky because it’s right: everything it says is true. But it’s just making slogans. It’s churning out rules to follow faster than Buzzfeed clickbait. It even churns out Think For Yourself! from time to time. Be wary of your illusions and certainties.
How much is it possible to do? The human factor (ephemerality)
Remember: you are not a machine. Disappearance is not a bad thing. It may save you from becoming a part of the machine. (Of course, it may also do no such thing. We here at Skewed Visions are known for taking breathers, but we feed the machine on occasion, too. And we’re still trying to peak behind the curtain.)
Betrayal as a positive value, or: deference to no one, respect for everyone
1. Give up the cause; the machine is eating your feet.
2. Reproductive organs are misleading. It is the desire that moves, not the sex act.
3. Give up your babies.
Nationalization – contemporary political financing as a possible model
4. Arts need big money dispersed widely.
5. Tell yourself: these are GOOD people I’m prostituting myself for.
6. Aren’t we already underground?
Success is pointless
Is this about money? No this isn’t about money. I’m not THAT kind of stupid. But money helps, doesn’t it? A little cash? And anyway, if you’re living in a cash register, how can you escape the money? But this is bigger than money. This is about living in THIS world, such as it is, whatever it is. FIND OUT what it is.
Survival is not a goal
This is not a race. If it was, there would be a winner and an end. So who is this all WORKING for? Who is SUCCEEDING at this gotdam GAME?
Know your roots so you can turn them into mulch
• Where did you come from?
• Make hungry children.
Metaphors are misleading
They substitute the beautiful for the accurate.
Advice is bait
Not because you will follow it but because it prescribes a problem-solution dynamic.
Aphorisms and epigrams are lies
The other end of specificity is the tiny generality. The face. The look. The lie.
If you’re changing, you’re surviving
That’s enough. Leave the rest. Look at the gears. Being in the moment does not mean you stop. Being in the moment is not brief enough. The window, the barrier, the obverse/reverse versus the before/after. Be the membrane or some such semi-sci-fi chanted inanity, whatever, stop caring and pay attention widen the gyre clash by night in the silence you don’t know
Disclaimer: Eating your cake is having your cake; quit complaining, cake is not good for you anyway.
What is it even possible to write? To think? To do?
If they are asking you for your papers, you are prey.
the smell of dandelions
we are not dead