There are many motivations for making art, both conscious and unconscious. In men, the cynic in me is inclined to think that art is just about demonstrating genetic fitness to the opposite sex. For whatever reason, creativity seems to perceived as attractive, and any endeavor that a male undertakes to distinguish himself in some way can at least be partly coupled to his innate reproductive drive. This pop evo-psych story reads like a "just-so" theory (hence it's appeal) but there's likely at least some truth to it.
(does this theory explain female creativity, like literature and music, for example, equally well? I don't know. Certainly the girls I've loved the most were both artists but maybe that's just me)
I'd like to give men more credit, though. Human motivation is a complex thing. If you agree with eliminative materialists, for example, they don't really even think it exists - we are simply biomechanical machines and whatever the phenomenology of purpose/motivation we experience is just like a thin mist of water hovering over the waves of the ocean, where all the real movement occurs. This is the camp that thinks that there's no such thing as mental causation, really, that every human action is just the consequence of atomic interactions in your brain cascading through your nervous system, and nothing more.
Psychologists and philosophers and people who oversell fMRI findings like to think they've solved every mystery in life. But they're wrong.
There are still mysteries... things we don't understand. I know that, subjectively, I feel a sometimes transcendental motivation to make something beautiful. There are many different kinds of beauty, some of them more raw than others, but I like to write about moments that can really move people. On the level of prose, too, I like the feel of a sentence when it flows properly. I like the movement of a paragraph written well, the rhythm of it. You might think me a sentimentalist, and you might be partly right, but there's room for sincerity in art that falls short of being Nicholas Fucking Sparks.
Or maybe Satoshi Kanazawa was right, and "everything a man does he does in order to get laid" / "MEN ONLY MAKE ART TO GET PUSSY" (I'm paraphrasing a bit here).
I don't know, maybe the guy is right.
I'd like to think he's wrong, though.
I've been trying to pin this sensation I've been feeling for some time now, and I think I'm experiencing a mild form of derealization - the sensation that the external reality is literally unreal. It's not a firm conviction (that would be a form of frank psychosis), but more of a soft sensation, like a weak haze that permeates everything.
I realized that this feeling, this experience, seems to be strongly tied to my increasing use of screens. I can basically track a linear, gradual increase in the strength of this sensation and the more I think about it, the more I realize it's tied to my increasing use of screens to experience reality. At work, I spend at least 75% of my time staring at a screen. On the bus, commuting, in between moments of conversation, in between sets at the gym, the screen is increasingly how I interface with reality. Because events on the screen are tied with real world outcomes (my finances, my evaluations, my contact with other people), maybe my subconscious has associated the screen with a true iteration of reality - and at the same time, it's inherently confusing to my brain, since another part of the subconscious actively rejects it as a representation of reality.
A synthetic product through and through, a pixellated screen is both real and unreal, a simulacrum of reality close enough to provide a vivid recreation of life, but just different enough to be perceived by your brain as unreal. I wonder if focusing our attention on these objects for hours at a time has a stultifying effect on our brains, numbing the experience of realness in our actual lives and bleeding over into our meatspace interactions.
I think it's something that's only going to get worse over time as we become increasingly integrated with various forms of portable computers - iWatches, contact lenses with HUD displays, holographic displays, and finally, VR technology and even direct brain-computer interfaces. I predict people will go on analog retreats where the wealthy can "enjoy" a "total immersion" experience devoid of any technology.
Speaking of which, that's something I need to do now.
Frank Yang did a great video on this, embedded below:
"I don't know. Maybe it's right, or maybe scramblers are ritual cannibals, or ... they're aliens, Keeton. What do you want from me?"
Blindsight is a wonderful hard sci-fi novel recommended by the blogger Jake Seliger.
It's not super accessible unless you're at least passingly familiar with some basic biology and philosophy of mind, but it's pretty compelling work. Minimally, it's an accomplishment in spinning some fairly complex ideas into an engaging, complicated narrative. It's a genuinely innovative piece of work - I can't say I've ever read anything like it. I like reading books written by people much smarter than I am.
The prose really sings at points, too::
"I - I dream about him sometimes, though. About... being him."
In conclusion, four out of five stars.
Recently finished this classic, most of which was primarily practical, but some of which I found useful. This passage on the presence of rhythms in all things, even in the act of killing, was quite beautiful:
Rhythm is something that exists in everything, but the rhythms in martial arts in particular are difficult to master without practice.
Of particular interest is the seriousness with which Musashi approaches his subject matter. He is writing about combat, about life and death, and yet the metaphors transcend the martial arts:
Generally speaking, fixation and binding are to be avoided, in both the sword and the hand. Fixation is the way to death, fluidity is the way to life. This is something that should be well understood.
The mental game of combat is endlessly fascinating:
First of all, when you take up the sword, in any case the idea is to kill an opponent. Even though you may catch, hit, or block an opponent's slashing sword, or tie it up or obstruct it, all of these moves are opportunities for cutting the opponent down. This must be understood. If you think of catching, think of hitting, think of blocking, think of tying up, or think of obstructing, you will thereby become unable to make the kill. It it crucial to think of everything as an opportunity to kill.
And perhaps my favourite passage of all, for its matter-of-fact tone:
When you are even with an opponent, it is essential to keep thinking of stabbing him in the face...
Making the point that what really matters is follow-through, not the choice itself, and that this is particularly true for relationships:
When I think about my time in college, the impact it had had nothing to do with my selection. I happened to meet a few good people, did my part to build friendships and learn together, and those things had an outsize impact on my life. With dating, the tenor of the relationship and the work we put in will be the deciding factor, not which of several compatible women I end up with.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis