The High Cost of Low Art
Some of us are extremely lucky to realize early-on our calling, or our path to our own ‘highest art’. Being in service or alignment with your life’s passion(s) is indeed a blessing beyond measure. When one has found their true calling – it’s as if all the stars fall into alignment and as Kevin Costner said in “Field of Dreams” – quoting the character Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) “There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place, and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.”
Now this may smack of a certain naïve idealism since we must ground ourselves in the realities of responsibility and accountability. Fulfilling our basic needs according to Maslow’s Hierarchy is not a trivial matter. We have ourselves and our families to consider and oftentimes, we are in alignment with the honorable pursuit of making sure that these people are cared-for. Once that has been firmly rooted in our being and has been made manifest in the world, we can (if we’re so lucky) turn our attention to the pursuits and causes that are oftentimes considered secondary or even tertiary.
As a research expert in social intelligence and digital analytics, I often perceive an almost dichotomous nature of content being shared amongst the personal and professional networks of people. What I mean is that people often share content that serves a very curious blend of motivations. Other types of content in other media channels such as ‘reality television’ are a whole other ballgame. The ‘magic quadrant’ graphic I created is meant to rather loosely identify these motivations and place them on an admittedly subjective scale. It was more-so to help me understand my own motivations.
As a 47 y.o. digital expert of questionable merit, I have literally grown-up around computers, the internet, & the WWW. I was a computer technician – military trained in the mid-80’s – that worked on massive mainframe systems that now, quite literally, fit in your pocket. I was using bulletin board systems and dial-up network connections before the WWW was born. I have become what I call an expert in ‘surfing the gestalt’ of the WWW by sheer virtue of my ingrained ability to skim lots of subjects, in lots of electronic locations – and then consume information in ‘chunked form’ – like a Cliff Notes version of looking at the digital information world. This ‘skill’ is one that everyone is now familiar with. We are all information junkies and skim our various newsfeeds to glean what we find interesting or important. I’m just saying that I have been studying the ‘digital gestalt’ for some time – and the types of information being shared – and the context of that sharing – are interesting things to study.
We are all familiar with the Forrester Research Social Technographic Ladder – that a relatively small percentage of people are content creators and then to varyingly increasing percentages: conversationalists, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. And we have been advised (conditioned) in our society that we must adopt multiple personas online due to the ‘appropriateness’ (subjective popularity) of certain types of content versus others – certain types of networks versus others. These networks span personal to professional – and we are counseled to keep these two separate – for fear of blending the two worlds and embarrassing ourselves – or worse, falling prey to reprisals by our friends, peers, colleagues, employers, the networks, and even the government . We are schooled that it is perfectly normal to operate in this virtual, ‘bifurcated’ or schizophrenic way – because it emulates how we are to behave in the real, physical world.
Now I am not advocating or challenging these unwritten rules of conduct – although they are increasingly becoming part of various written agreements, contracts, and terms & conditions. What I am curious about is the larger issue of service to oneself, service to one’s family & friends, service to one’s community - and how that is exemplified in the content and related behaviors in the social networks. I should caveat that I am not a social scientist and therefore these ideas are purely instinctual and based upon my own observations. What I see, time-and-time again is that a large percentage of people share content that serves the purposes of self-promotion, or serves the purposes of identifying with popular culture and/or corporate culture. The technology, gadgetry, youth, pop culture, and material success obsession of our society is pervasive – and the allure of acceptance and an ‘elevated social status’ is powerful. Fame is a curious thing as well, and it seems that everyone wants a piece – no matter the cost to one’s self, to one’s dignity.
I am trying to serve a greater purpose – a higher purpose as a means of having a life well lived. I am, like many of us, trying to find deep meaning in my life in the day-to-day moments. Transcending the mundane is more about an internal revolution than external stimuli. And as I reach for my own ‘high art’ – as most certainly the great masters of all arts do and have done – I come into alignment with a great truth: that this – my ‘high art’ is in fact serving the macrocosm – the universe – at the same time. I can no longer separate serving that which is greater than me – from that which is ‘greatest to me.’ The two are inexorably intertwined.
So, how are you serving the best in yourself? And are you needlessly – perhaps wrongfully – bifurcating yourself in the process of living your day-to-day? Where do you land in my ‘magic quadrant?’ Where does what you’re sharing-out into the universe land on that scale? More importantly, how are you serving the absolute best version (vision) of yourself in every moment – in every action?
I recently watched an episode of “Charlie Rose: The Week” when Mr. Rose posed this question to his guests, Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart: “Do both of you see somewhere you need to reach-to? Not to complete, but add-to these remarkable, dual careers?” Sir Patrick Stewart responded, “Only one thing is important to me now and it is an endeavor to find the deepest and most meaningful quality of truth in the work that I do. And I see that, I hope, as my ‘actor’s journey’ for the rest of my life.”
Bravo “Captain Picard!”
Certainly a lesson for us all when it comes to how we view our own art forms and our own lives. And are they separate? Are they different? I’m sure these two great actors – these two venerable artists – would propose that they’re not.