Essays

Motivation as Politics

By Jason Lazarus (2011)

In 2008, I exhibited a floor-to-ceiling reproduction print of an Otis Redding performance photograph.  In it, Otis was kneeling, wailing, live, practically praying right there in front of you. What in another context would be a subservient pose became an expression of the weight of his own grandiose mental image of himself, his gift to the audience – his everything.  If he was doing that, what was I doing?  It was a motivational image without trying to be, and I distributed free, small reproductions to the audience as a motivational piece for their studio, home, or workplace.  After the exhibition, I continued to distribute the posters through my website, and over the next three years I received SASEs from artists around the world, often with a nice note, asking for a free motivational poster.  I still get requests, I still have more posters, and I still send them out.  Two lessons have emerged: I believe in the gesture of motivating artists, and artists need it.  This exhibition is about raising the percentages beyond my reach as an individual artist, hoping that other artists, when given the chance, can find another way to carve into MOTIVATION in a way that will affect someone else out there.

Motivation, like a lot of big ideas, is top-heavy.  The nuanced ideas, insights, or complexities surrounding it are often subsumed by the swollen, trite ones.  When it comes to art, however, in some ways motivation can be quite simple: you either have the desire or you don’t.  The stereotypical portrayal of this desire is often compulsive, almost pathological, a desire that is more hardwired than negotiated.  Most artists I know don’t fit this simplistic view. They are strongly dedicated, but they are fighting not only their own resistance to getting things done, but the increasing distraction and homogeneity of the global economic engine that underscores ‘culture.’  It’s a choice to be a cultural producer, and it’s a choice to consume independent culture; both are about searching.  This choice is implicitly, if not outwardly, a political one.  We need to remember that we, as cultural producers, are not only figuring out our own production and discourse, but by doing so, are fighting a bigger fight as well.  Micro as well as macro artistic gestures count toward this fight—everything counts toward the balance.

Those of us not pathologically creating, but trying to balance cultural production with other concerns like family, our relevant communities, self-education, etc, are constant witness to our humanness as we struggle or succeed at tasks big and small.  We’re highly aware of our shifting under-or-over performance, and subject to daily assaults on getting things done: financial, physical, spatial, intellectual, material, and time restrictions arise.  Whether it’s art or something else, we’re all knowingly fighting obstacles with the assumption more will come our way—obstacles, at least, are a reliable variable.

This awareness I can connect to my first view, probably in the early 1980s, of a ‘Hang in There’ poster (this was not the famous original 1968 version).  Instead, I saw Garfield–heavy-lidded, stoic, an anti-hero hanging from a tree branch, aware of the futility of cheerfulness in the face of a more sensible dark awareness of the long conundrum of existence.  At this point, for me, motivation became meta—I understood it more as keeping an eye on the horizon, thinking more long term, expecting dark narratives along the way.  Not embracing, but expecting.

Years later in the early 90s, a schoolmate in Kansas City was showing me his paintings.  They were based on family snapshots, and although I didn’t know how to gauge painting then, they felt extraordinary, especially for a high school student.   I asked him a number of questions about them, and at one point he mentioned that for him paintings were a labor to begin; he’d set out blank canvases and have paints sitting and ready alongside them as a way to ‘trick’ himself into a relationship with painting.  He was pre-empting the failure, and by doing so, fighting the bigger fight as well.

I try to pre-empt my own failure constantly.  Sometimes I park my car in a spot where it must be moved by 8AM in order to force myself to swim laps in the morning, or I leave a view camera open with loaded film in my studio in order to foster picture making.  As I embrace these ideas for my own production, I also make it a point to seek out artists whose work has affected me, and share my response with them in an articulate a way as possible.  Motivation, for me, has become more circular, energy moving around with a bigger arc of purpose.  To motivate another cultural producer has also become a political act.

Artists are producers whose contributions are a critical capital to a larger, less discussed economy; one that does not have a daily index number.  The decision to contribute to this larger and more abstract economy is laborious, because it is one of constant resistance to the homogenous flow of culture whose main aim is economic.  This exhibition is a solicitation for artists to begin to reinvigorate a notion of motivation, as its greater purpose is non-negotiable.  Every gesture counts.  There is too much to lose.

Or, as Edmar, our gracious host at Co-Prosperity Sphere has offered, ‘You are all fucked…so you better make something happen.’

A big THANK YOU to the participating artists.  Every one of them was asked to respond to the theme of MOTIVATION, and trusted to respond in any way they found appropriate.  They have taken time outside their individual artistic goals to participate in something whose aim is to radiate outward.  Thank you. – J.L.

The search is what everyone would undertake if he were not stuck in the everydayness of his own life. To be aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

-Walter Percy, The Moviegoer

***

Hang In There Because the Journey’s Better Than the Destination Even If the Heart’s a Lonely Hunter 

By Corrina Kirsch (2011)

An exhibition is better than an essay.  You can see everything all at once in an exhibition, but sentences require waiting, waiting for points to be made and connections developed. An essay, quite simply, is a work about the artwork. It’s an independent work just like all the other in the schema of a group exhibition at the same time that it’s something thing external to the things that hang there, in the gallery.  Hang in There is about labor, resisting the sometimes brutal world external to the self in the age-old problem of the self versus the other, but that’s way too simple of an explanation. All art is a type of labor; I prefer using “artwork” to “piece” for this reason.  More than labor, more than self and other, Hang in There is about embracing clichés about refusal—without having a clue about the reasons for sticking to your guns, about just doing it while turning back the clock even if you’re running out of time in order to live life to its fullest, and any other number of sayings that have become common verbal currency.

Ezra Pound’s well-worn adage about Modernism, “Make it new,”  has no place when repetition is a given in the arts and the desire to be original is just something reserved for naïve freshman art students and teenage Goths when they’re feeling depressed.  Hanging in there isn’t just about you as an individual, it’s about the empathy found in realizing that everyone’s got at least a little bit of cliché in them. “The social” can be found in the cliché. In this exhibition, the varied approaches to negotiating a place for oneself include embracing quotations, music lyrics, ritual and spirituality, buttons, internet-based  works, sports and games, and relics to the past.

And don’t forget another reason to hang in there: the world sucks right now. We’re still in a recession and we’re still at war. I’m glad I don’t want a car because I wouldn’t be able to afford one anyway. Very few of my friends who’ve recently graduated with art degrees have full-time jobs. Museums don’t have the budgets to staff curatorial departments and graduate programs are accepting more students than ever to stay out of debt, garnering the derogatory yet well-deserved name of “degree factories” for these institutions. It’s a biting, sarcastic hand of art scene fate that gives recognition at the same pace that it takes away; I can’t think of many other professional fields outside the arts that would assign international accord for achievement in a field to the practically unemployed.

The Journey’s Better than the Destination

I check out my horoscope through iGoogle everyday and I look to Susan Miller, aka http://www.astrologyzone.com, for a detailed monthly analysis of my sign.  It’s not that I believe in a core essence of being a Virgo, but I don’t believe in much else with complete assuredness, so I may as well try the stars and planets for cosmic advice.  Susan Miller thinks that, as a Virgo, “I devote my substantial communicative talents to concrete goals” and obviously that’s true about me because I am writing this essay after all. “Virgo’s fastidiousness and precision is unmatched by any other sign. They polish their work until it shines, for Virgo’s overwhelming desire is to feel productive. Don’t tell a Virgo to relax and chill out, for most members of this sign have not quite mastered that ability.” Exactly, Susan Miller, you know me so well.  With nothing else to go on, the turn to New Age-y wisdom in contemporary art enacts this additional refusal, that with nothing else, you may as well turn to a form of ritual that’s self-affirming, definitely not accusatory, and contains a pre-existing aesthetic of both a geometric and organic forms ranging from glowing crystals to timeless pyramids.

Shreya Sethti’s human-sized automaton, The Blessing Machine, wields large copper “hands” based on the artist’s own, wagging unknown blessings over the heads’ of willing participants.  The legacy of this work consists of integrating lost models of ritual (religion previously at home with the arts and now forsaken) as well as community and other concerns of loss and decay.

The loss of “what came before” has spawned a powerful grip on current art production—as long as we’re following some sort of loose, unreal, non-linear organization of art from Post-war to Contemporary and then onto whatever we haven’t yet decided to call the present. The alleged loss of medium-specificity in art, or art in the expanded field, forgets to include how digital technologies are continuing to sublimate our original analog concepts of what constitutes a medium.  A few concrete examples: Paint FX and button-clicking fingers for oil, canvas, and painted gestures made with the full-weight and thrust of an arm and body; and instant iPhone photos traded in for long-term developing in a darkroom. These experiences are different due to the technologies and bodies involved. The unknown is OK, it’s just something that happens and then you just deal with it.  “The solution isn’t always there,” says the kitten dangling from a tree limb in the “Hang in There, Baby!” motivational poster, “but you just hope for one.” Nobody knows what happened to that animal after it eventually fell from the limb.

Hans Belting addressed this peculiarity of present-day art to retain traces of prior modes through how “[i]n its usual appearance, art is found in constant self-doubt and keeps the periphery of its former existence.”1  Eric Fleischauer’s wreaths constructed out of VHS tape and artificial flowers regard the melancholic demise of video’s physical medium, but with a tinge of celebratory joy through turning tape spools into a festive display.

Making sense out of the unknown is an issue that works concerned with the technological turn confront, where the seemingly vast and ephemeral nature of the internet, although just a myth, becomes a subject for works concerned with the physicality of this now quotidian thing. Christopher Meerdo’s stack of envelopes have been dotted with a black and white translation of Wikileaks’ insuranceaes256 file, giving physical form to this as yet invisible and unknown file.  The file will remain unlocked, possibly indefinitely, until Julian Assange or anyone else involved with Wikileaks deems the release of this “thermo-nuclear device” if the organization is believed to be under siege.  Whatever lurks in the  electronic file, whatever destructive potential, becomes tamed and aestheticized, made smaller, printed in the small of a standard white envelope.

The technological turn to make sense of the infinite appears in Jon Rafman’s  Tokyo Color Drifter (2010) and  Brad Troemel and Jon Vingiano’s  Blind Mist (blindmist.com). In Rafman’s web-based video, the first-person vantage point conveys a sense of control through the video’s slow drive through the city streets, however viewers lack any ability to disrupt the predetermined journey and endless drift without a destination. The participatory logic of Blind Mist adheres to the plethora of ways to connect on the internet while refusing the common usage of text-based search engines. Users submit their website address to Blind Mist and then the site extracts every image on the users’ pages, forming a random display of images. When clicked, each image allows trackbacks to a user’s original page.  In this website, the type of community formed isn’t as important as the fact that information is a type of communication. Text-based search functions can only go so far in a Google search; we think in images, not just words. The relatively anonymous community formed from inclusion on Blind Mist identifies the necessity of communication over a specific function of community.  “Communication consists before all else in sharing…that makes it exist only by exposing it to an outside” whereby making something visible is to communicate, to exist.

The effective types of community in this exhibition extend beyond previous artistic models and communication, rounded out by works that take on a personal tone.  Esteban Schimpf’s You and I Could Fill the Sea (2010) shows the vast emptiness of a waterless sea—an epic fail of natural proportions.  The loneliness, yet apparent indeterminacy of how very large a thing as “the social” becomes constrained within the scope of very real and limited human bodies. Zoe Strauss’ photograph assigns a particular space to this concept of large ideas/limited bodies in her photograph that captures a hotel marquee that reads “Together we make dreams come true” immediately above “No Vacancy.” There’s already too many sayings in circulation, but it’s NBD when you can always re-draft the past.

Repeating a mantra over and over helps to deal with wild uncertainties if for no other reason—and it’s still a good, existential reason—than to retain a sense of atom-like individuality, even while embracing notions of flux and flexibility.  Flexibility is one of the words of the moment for dealing with the new/old problems of living and working in the arts.  Too many MFAs and not enough teaching jobs coupled with the burden of paying back student loans for an education you couldn’t afford before you went to school and definitely not after, creates a situation of determination to do something with your training rather than giving up.  I’m still doubtful of the extent that flexibility can solve this issue.  I want to speculate that the drive to obsess over pixels, politics, or portraits creates greater meaning through specialization—and the heart of an unfailing commitment to something you can call your own—rather than feigning comprehension about entire fields and industries.

Looking for inspiration in the past, buffet-style, comes easily to the process of coming up with motivational mantras. Sometimes the saying is so simple that its existence seems self-evident.  “Don’t Fk Up” buttons by Wendy White, “Even a Great Wave is Just Ocean Itself” cards by Jason Pickleman, “I Love Love” stickers by Brandon Alvendia, and Aspen Mays’ “Make the Work” takeaways all respond to the structure of community through chiming in with particular reimaginings of hard-to-disagree with expressions. This vague space allows for individual potential.  Nothing didactic, viewers can choose to pick up a souvenir or walk away. The logic informing choice is broad, but it’s one that shouldn’t be discounted just because of a loose framework.

Like Mays who excavates the past for grains of heroism in familiar American figures—her quotation was made purportedly by Walt Whitman, InCUBATE’s Bryce Dwyer looked to William James for his motto-on-a-mug: “It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.” Again, the assertion is of the self’s viability against the unknown, without knowing beforehand how those refusals and expressions will turn into experience.  The coffee mug, a corporate culture staple, finds personal validation for any anonymous cubicle-worker. Better than a Dilbert strip lining your wall, you can take that mug with you through right-angled halls to assert and put forth your person “from one hour to another.” The risk of a mug is small compared to what you choose to wear on casual Friday; I wouldn’t risk my Friday in art opening wear (most recently, leather shorts and a sheer chiffon shirt) for fear of being outed as unprofessional. Regardless of the amount of risk, how you want the self to be portrayed in a severe world becomes key for the type of motto chosen.

This penchant for examining the self as a thing that can be maintained against the unknown takes its form through the body’s continual contest of endurance against itself.  The awards for the works in this exhibition for the most bodily interpretations of “hanging in there” go to Aron Gent and Joan of Arc. In Joan of Arc’s soundwork, Freddie Mercury’s highest pitch reached in Under Pressure plays on a loop, emphasizing the endurance of his falsetto through the decades and through the length of the exhibition.  Gent’s rock climbing wall, Grip, Tip, Slip (2011), reinstalls the wall he had built in his childhood home.  Without any irony, his lived experience becomes integrated with the unfortunate stereotype about the art scene’s “bad at sports” mentality, continuing to exist regardless of how much we tend to talk about the body’s physicality in relationship to time, performance, and any experience we have with art.

Even if the Heart’s a Lonely Hunter

A catalogue essay can’t fail to mention what the exhibition has left out.  The desire to hang in there, sure, it’s for general and abstract reasons, but really, it’s about the relationships we have with others: love, romance, or just a cock thrusting between breasts or a wet slit between fingers, it’s all erotic to some degree.  Community is about comfort but it’s also just as much about fucking. The erotic: it’s a foundation of art as much as any other part of life.

Even though optimism lies behind many of the works in this exhibition, writing an essay about hanging on has been depressing. I’m not sure why I’m continuing to stick with the art scene because I haven’t had a full-time job in over a year.  Of course, I never decided to become involved with the arts for financial gain. In most fields, I would have hit a point of career suicide. Regardless of the length of time since I’ve stepped into the doors of a museum office, I come back to the idea that the art world is a forgiving one.  Still, I hope that next year will be better.  – C.K.

***

Hang In There, Just Do It, Try Harder, Someone’s Helping

By Nicholas Wylie

The unfortunate tax of apprehending the contemporary world’s ponderous complexity is our seemingly intractable cynicism. Whereas our forbearers optimistically toiled to find and categorize all animal species, understand the relationship between energy and matter, and summarize the trends in western poetry through the ages, we now presume that the scope of these and other projects are too wide for mere individuals to pin down and grasp fully. At best we can specialize in some niche discipline and form subjective understandings and opinions about some small field of knowledge. Polymaths and renaissance men striving to develop full pictures of creation are much more rare than they recently were. Of course it’s understandable that the most overwhelmingly common response to the enormity and complicatedness of something like climate change or postcolonial imperialism is to shut down in the face of it, to be overwhelmed by it. Terror management theory holds that when confronting overwhelming odds, death, etc, humanity does what it can to distract itself from these realities. Culture, which provides a sweeping array of distractions, grows from death and horror.

This is sad. Revelling in uncertainty, absorbing mankind’s wandering malaise, even as a supposed of safeguard against fascism, is folly. We’ve all seen the political results of postmodernity, and it certainly doesn’t feel like our cynicism and doubt have won us much ground. Neitzsche is popularly maligned by orthodox Marxists as a having contributed to Nazi fascism, but we and Bataille know better. Friedrich’s crimes are opposite, worse. Killing god, a feat that we can thank him for, completed the task that Descartes and Kant had edged toward—giving cold, utter responsibility to the individual. Of course we know that for prior thinkers, total doubt was a kind of secret anti-knowledge, one best not exposed to light—not because it was dangerously potent, but because it was inevitably impotent—a waste of time. The great accomplishments of The Enlightenment, then, come with the Pandora’s vacuum of doubt, of our convictions, of our knowledge, of our morality, and with paralytic, horrible impotence. Having flailed about in this condition of the better part of a century, we are left with echoes of fashion and deconstruction and reactionary, blind boldness. It’s little wonder that motivational posters and books earn our reproach. Positing that you know the best course of action for yourself, let alone others seems farcical. Eat, Pray, Love feels like Just Do It, and is in fact more nauseating because of the (supposed) absence of a calculated, focus-group production apparatus with a clear goal: to trick. That one woman can pretend to trick us into meaningful lives feels preposterous. Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia, you’ll recall, was a caricature of shallow, lost, evil-spreading motivational speaker, helpfully illustrating that which we’re so suspicious of in that sad, to-the-tune-of-Aimee-Mann sort of late 90s, post-grunge wallowing.

Hang In There and Try Harder, we must understand, are also really just Just Do It. This is immediately troubling, of course; the similarity in tactics that produces a reflexive repugnance. It’s why these tools have been so long left unnoticed or untouched by would-be neo-vanguards. We have long agreed with Audre Lorde that the master’s tools are being unable to dismantle the master’s house. It is clear, though, that it is in just such bold, earnest, counter-appropriations, that untested, probably fertile ground lies.

We need this motivational show both because we want to be told by people we trust how to endure this world and boot-strap pull-up, but also because we as artists have to learn to be prescriptive again. The far-be-it-from-me-to-say-what-you-should-do syndrome has been endemic for decades now, and we all know that meanwhile people are using dangerous, lizard-brained dogma and propaganda (who is Rush but a master motivator?) to overturn what few progressive, democratic tenants of our society remain from victories of erstwhile leftists and intellectuals who carried rulers and slapped wrists and told people what was true.

The disparate, peripatetic production in the contemporary art world may be seen as a funhouse mirror of the world, but certainly doesn’t feel like the world-shaping hammer that Brecht wanted it to be. The aim of Hang In There is explicitly to produce something other than diagnosis. The show’s imperative call to be use the imperative voice is one that I’m sure that many artists, myself included, struggled mightily with. Thematic shows are hard enough, but there are usually tricks to making your work sideways “about clouds” without really changing your affect or pivoting too drastically from your standard modus operandi. This show asks artists to think of their production as having a direct and specific effect on people’s lives; it asks artists to become advertisers, prosthelytizers, to write Eat, Pray, Love. This is harder than what we usually do. We’re being asked to try harder.

One way to look at the way out of our solipsistic trenches is the rock bottom approach. Cynicism is a luxury that people who want to survive serious drug addiction cannot afford, as NA and AA tell it in steps 11, 7, 6, 5, 3, and in step 2, which goes something like “come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” The Prime Motivator, throughout the ages, of course, has been God, divinity, the getting-sober prerequisite. The Greeks used to share the affects of the Gods, and would literally credit their actions to the moods of The Pantheon. Helen, who herself was able to motivate a thousand ships’ launching, when leaving with Paris for Troy, happened to be wrapped up in one of Aphrodite’s passions, and so assumed no responsibility for her adulterous escape, and was even lauded for having given herself to the will of the Gods.

Monotheistic fervor, pre-Kant, had the same sort of life-leading powers. Hebraic disallowances of a certain 10 behaviours were followed by motivating afterlife carrots and sticks, and by a general prescription to empathize via the golden rule. If wayward your path did go, the institutions that upheld religion provided wise men skilled in advice and motivation stamped with the sagacity and veracity of greater mysterious truths. The success rate of the 12 steps is depressingly abysmal, though it is largely held to be the best method available to save addicted lives. A large part of this is no doubt the difficulty of being truly able to adopt God as a motivator, even in the face of such despair, for, it seems He truly does save.

Another possible way to get back on track without bowing to the divine yolks that the heroes of yesteryear’s revolutions so warned against is to move the dialectic beyond the comfortable but tired paradigms of metanarrative heroes and postmodern tricksters. Assigning new gods and heroes, even new enemies, is a motivational task worth undertaking, though it will be as difficult as assuming new spiritualities. One hurdle is that we’re suspicious of heroes (who are by definition motivators) like we’re suspicious of motivation. The Arab Spring was endlessly championed as hero-less, no Chés or Trotskys there. Julian Assange’s heroism was denounced almost immediately, both by the press and governments, of course, but also by those sympathetic to his cause, who derided him as a distraction from the empire-damning facts that WikiLeaks was attempting to disseminate. Enemies were the motivation of the moderns; socialists hated fascists and capitalists, the avant garde combated the ideas of the previous vangua–rds, religion was the opiate of the masses and soviets were soulless and evil. Things are more confusing now, relativity and tolerance (not hospitality) reign, and the other cannot be used responsibly as a measure of self.  Even so, I think that we can recover these feelings, because we never really lost them. Rumsfeld and Rice and Wolfowitz are clear enemies, we just need to branch out and find their acolytes in more accessible arenas. Enemies we can get to, if we can just start by hating haters and obvious dastards, and move from there. Heroes are harder to get back.

David Foster Wallace was my one and only true hero. He was trying to find a way, in his post-humously-published second opus The Pale King, to prescribe boredom as a solution to the aforementioned clusterfuck. He describes a group of IRS employees in 1985 Peoria, with the aim of exploring the transcendental qualities of boredom. Wallace was clearly obsessed with finding a way for fiction to transcend postmodern tropes and find ways to find meaning in contemporary life. Some of his motivation for exploring the enlightenment-through-boredom idea was Stephen Lacy of Evanston, a taxman Wallace was consulting for his book. He wrote in a letter to Wallace, about the sometimes-impenetrable language of tax law. “I find that although I can never quite understand what it says, after I read it several times and concentrate, I can actually get into a kind of weird Zen-type meditation high!” It’s utterly heart-wrenching that Wallace took his own life in his struggle to bring us this gorgeously rendered exploration of a possible path of salvation. With him, it felt like all heroes finally died for good.

I finally watched Eat, Pray, Love recently, and listened to the book on tape, and watched Liz Gilbert’s motivational TED Talk, and listened to her talk about creativity on Radio Lab. She is a smart person trying really hard to find meaning in contemporary life having acknowledged and understood and cried about the paucity of it. This sounds like a certain three-named dead hero, I’m thinking, maybe I could fixate on her, maybe she holds the keys to meaning and productiveness and joie de vivre et al. Jury’s out.

In her motivational talks she basically gives a pitch full of caveats and “I-know-it-sounds-crazy”s and assurances that she really is like us but with that she’s just recently found belief. That she has a relationship with a divine thing that she just happens to call God and that she just happens to gender male. She’s quick to point out that for all intents and purposes this spiritual thing can be any old thing. She’d like us to imagine, especially, various understanding of muses throughout history, and harps on the pre-renaissance idea of “having” a genius—at one point literally a supernatural being that lived in the artist’s walls. She contrasts that with the newer notion of “being” a genius, a notion she blames for all sorts of writer’s block and artists’ suicide, and general creatives-gone-sad syndrome. The take-away she credits Tom Waits with waking her up to, is that all your creative output is coming from someone, someplace else. She stresses that you still have to nose-to-grindstone it every day, makes sure you don’t throw out Hang In There, Try Harder, and Just Do It, but adds to those the notion that “someone’s helping.”

I would really like to try and buy all this, and it frustrates me to no end that I can’t even talk about it with a post-9/11 lack-of-cynicism, but I can’t seem to. At the end of Eat, Pray, Love—which is, in summary, a white person’s account of a big, extravagant, self-indulgent globehop—she gets to Bali, and the Love part of her journey. It ends up being a study of romantic love, heteronormative and sappy and utterly disappointing. But the thing is, of course, Mz. Gilbert is smart and reflexive about it, and figures that it is, yeah, really disappointing that she’s gone on this big spiritual quest and just ended up in some dashing man’s arms at the end. That’s not the way that the enlightened and liberated 21st century woman’s quest for truth is supposed to end. Then she does the judo-move justification and says earnestly, “ef that,” and goes off on an Indian-ocean-bobbing boat to, ostensibly, happiness.

Love, which makes folks do crazy things, is a motivator that we still have. Love is what’s constantly sparkling in Jason Lazarus’ eyes, for humanity, life, ideas, the world. It’s this thing that at once makes me totally jealous and has the capacity to inspire endless aspiration. Enemies for him aren’t even necessary, negativity being so far from his wheelhouse, and spirituality doesn’t really play a part either. Jason Lazarus, I remember, is my hero, and he’s asking us all to be heroes. Let’s at least try hard.

Many of the ideas in the above came from places other than the writer’s head. Having forgone detailed footnotes as a favour to the publication’s designer, the most-leaned-upon reference that the writer would direct his readers to is the recently-published motivational text “All Things Shining.” Written by Herbert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, philosophers at Harvard and Berkeley respectively, this book tries to figure out where meaning went and how to get it back. He wouldn’t say it fixes everything, but it’s more interesting and meaty than the above.

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