Thursday, April 26, 2012

Arts of the Cultivator's Lifestyle

A recurring theme this blog has been relaying is the inadequacy of a consumerist lifestyle.  The problems with which are more than economic; this isn’t some plea to “create more than you consume” because of economic justice or to play fair in the capitalist game.  Economics has nothing to do with it. Because despite the fact that most people create more than they consume by the economic definition (selling one’s labor for the market price), more than a handful of Americans feel the misery of a consumption net surplus because their minds are bent toward getting the next material fix, not in creating something.  They neither derive a sense of accomplishment from the economic value they produce nor use the pay they receive toward the act of creating.  That then is what determines whether a lifestyle that is consumerist. 

But consumerism is the way of the mediocre.  It’s the lifestyle that stresses free enjoyment via entertainment instead of achievement through blood, sweat, and tears.    It’s the path of short-term gratification with zero long-term benefits.  Thus, as I hinted a few blog posts back, the extent to which one is successful relies on how well he steers clear of soul-crushing, myopic materialism. The truly happy man then fills his day with work towards an endeavor of material achievement.

So, unplug the tv and video games, and hold off on buying the next item on your shopping list, because if you want to be a player in the game instead of a spectator, you better incorporate at least a few aspects of the creator/cultivator’s lifestyle.   Below are examples of endeavors creators spend their days doing.
  •   Play a musical instrument, even if you don’t perform.  Remember, you’re trying to improve or to create something.  You’ll find that even though it takes effort to learn and improve, you will feel mentally empowered after a practice session for that very reason.  Performing is a double bonus that also gives an amazing high.  
  • §  Draw for fun.  So instead of toying with your iphone when you’re waiting at the doctor’ office, pull out a pencil and drawing paper and start sketching, either a figure from your imagination or something in your surroundings. 
  • §  Write habitually.  Keep a journal and a blog where you document your thoughts, experiences, and fantasies.    Your written musings shouldn’t be for some descendent living 150 years later marveling at ancestral genius, or even for present readers.  The benefits to writing are in the process itself and the sense of achievement it brings.
  • §  Read constantly.   While not an act of creation per se, reading cultivates the mind, providing the necessary knowledge and inspiration to accomplish any endeavor of life.  And if you don’t say you have time to read, I don’t want to hear it.  I carry a book with me everywhere I go – squeezing a few extra pages here and there – while others hang around idle.  Moreover, saying that is complete BS, pure and simple.  Each one of us is allotted the same amount of time as everyone else.  It’s never about time; it’s about priorities.   That excuse is nothing but a method to rationalize your laziness.  If you’re sane, then you read, because there is no way you can figure everything out all by yourself.  Just think of this way:  If knowledge is power, and if there is a near-infinite amount of knowledge ridden in books, then if you don’t read, you’re a tool, vulnerable to the multifarious abuses the world will scrap you with. 
  • §   Compete in sporting games or races, because winning feels so good.
  • §  Start body building. There’s a reason people love working out, and it’s not just about the vanity in the mirror either.  It’s the high you get when you put conscious, labor-intensive effort into creating a better mind and body. 
  • §  Have a hobby that involves building things with your hands.  A few such hobbies are woodworking, pottery, gardening, building models, or tinkering with machines.  Overall, just build something you’re proud of. 
  • §  Don’t just cultivate your own life –make an impact on others by assuming a mentorship role.        
I could go on, but the general theme leaps out, giving the reader examples that form a clear, crystalline understanding of the things creators spend their time doing.  These activities scare the amusement-seeking American because they require work, intelligence, and discipline, even as it is from this very reason that the ambitious individual so actively engages in them.  A sense of accomplishment and self-worth comes from avoiding the easy and partaking in the difficult.  The cultivator then has little need for indulgences because he has lifted himself up on a higher plane of existence, where his pleasure is derived from the nurturing of his soul and the reinforcement of his self-worth.  His is the lifestyle that revolves in a virtuous circle.

 You may harbor doubts about surviving from the consumerist sinking ship, but be consoled from the examples of others who have thrived on in dangerous waters.  If they can do it, you can too. And I applaud anyone who makes that leap.     

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