Rules are Stupid (An homage to Zarathustra):

22 Jul
Jeffrey Holmes: Blog for CATALYSIS PROJECTS, July, 2011.
The actions of being an artist are those of the exception to the norm, not the norm that the majority is engulfed within.  The only rules we are to follow are those of nature.  It is mankind’s instinct to try to govern and document those aspects of nature, all without mandate.  It is our hangover from a monotheistic aeon.  Prior to the spread of monotheism, mankind lived amongst nature and “worshipped” natural gods that provided explanations for natural occurrences that could not be explained by reason.  As monotheism encroached upon society, there became an irrational desire to separate from nature and dominate it.  The early Judeo-Christian liturgans chopped down trees to build wooden churches to demonstrate their dominance over nature, while the pagans lived amongst the forests in collaboration with natural elements.  This need for dominance all springs from a fear of the power nature had over their lives and their desire to control it, in order to ensure their own survival.  In our current aeon, we are generally unthreatened by nature in that same way.  Of course, we can be killed by earthquakes or the by the sea, or large storms, but we understand this scientifically and are comforted by the control we gain from that knowledge.  But most people are unlikely to get killed by a bear or wolf or band of marauders or something wild as they walk from their secure home to their secure vehicle (weather a car, train, etc.), to their secure job or through their secure life.  So some of us, the majority, are clinging to a divinity that dominates nature, but without the spiritual rationality of a reason for doing so.  This always leads to criticism of the minority, by the majority.  Criticism often leads to bias, and then to conflict and finally, attempts at extermination.  It is our political and legal doctrine in our post-modern era.

1. Rules are Stupid:

Historically we privilege the exceptions, and are bored with the norm.  My hero is Beethoven.  His value that we now derive from his actions is that of a progressive one.  This is why we separate him from his now generally considered “lesser” contemporaries like Dittersdorf, Vanal, Gottschalk, etc., all of whom followed conventions of their day.  Beethoven, however, is praised for breaking the rules and defying the norm, and that is why he is taught and studied…his exceptions, not his submissions.  In fact, in our current society, he would probably be ostracized for his adherence to his believes and unflinching integrity and his obstinate, brash personality.  Even late in his own life he was ostracized…having children throw rotten fruit at him on the street, being arrested for vagrancy, and his for his increasing social isolation due to his stubborn and offensive attitude.  It is no surprise that his main source of inspiration was always nature.  Even though his works do not reveal this on the surface through their titles, his journals reveal that his daily walks in the forest was where and when he conjured his ideas.

2. Rules are Stupid:

This brings me around to the point of sharing my thoughts.  I have been told by everyone around me, that I am bound by my employment, bound geographically.  Even if that has caged me into less of a fulfilled life than I demand for myself.  I have recently broken these rules and moved away, far away…to the top of a mountain.  When I was a lost and searching 12 year-old, I was permanently inspired and shaped by Fredrick Nietzsche’s Thus Sparch Zarathustra.  This fictional tale describes a thinker/poet who was not a part of the norm of society.  He chose to live in on a mountain-top, away from society, to regain spiritual and personal clarity.  When he returns to society ten years later, his impressions are profound.  It is no coincidence that Nietzsche’s selected name for this character “Zarathustra” is a pun on the word “Zoroastrian”, which is the name of the first mono-theistic sect in recorded history (that either Nietzsche or myself are aware of), and is an obvious illumination of the conflict between mono-theistic divinity and the natural order of our world.  So I have finally rejoined my 12 year-old self.  I have become Zarathustra, and have claimed my mountain-top.

3. Rules are Stupid:

As I embark upon a collaboration with fellow Catalysis Projects artist Quintain Ana Wikswo, I am reminded of the natural element in art.   We are creating a work that from my end is to be titled “Pastoral”, which is the evocation of nature.  This is not a literal depiction of natural images, that feat is only for God or Satan.  Instead, this is a symbolist portrayal of my internal feelings that arise when submerged in, or deprived of, nature.  From here upon my Zarathustrian mountain-top, my Beethovian artistic sensibility is free to roam.  Quintain is similarly progressing into nature.  She is creating her part of this work from the Catskill mountain range in New York.  Our two works are to collide into a third work, either unifying peacefully, or as Beethoven said “lying back to back, like two grizzly bears in a cave, unwilling to fight or to merge but somehow coexisting and informing one another”.

Like Zarathustra and Beethoven, we are adults and artists, we are exceptions to society, we do not need rules.


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