Top 5 Articles You Should Read Right Now
I’ve been reading a lot of great stuff on the net recently. Just when you think the internet has become nothing but cat videos and pictures of food, some excellent wordsmith pops up and restores your faith in the art of the written word. I love coming across articles that give me plenty of food for thought and I have revisited the following articles many times, drawing on their wisdom or just marveling at how well written they are. So, naturally, because I love you guys (group hug?), I thought I’d share the links here so you too can benefit from their greatness. You’re welcome.
6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person
If you read nothing else today, read this. Seriously. I read it a few weeks ago and have reread it almost daily. Excellently written, this piece will have you screaming ‘YES!’ with every point made. If you’re sensitive and can’t handle the truth, it’s probably not for you, but if you need a bit of a slap around the face, let this article do it for you. A sample:
If you want to know why society seems to shun you, or why you seem to get no respect, it’s because society is full of people who need things. They need houses built, they need food to eat, they need entertainment, they need fulfilling sexual relationships. You arrived at the scene of that emergency, holding your pocket knife, by virtue of your birth — the moment you came into the world, you became part of a system designed purely to see to people’s needs.
Has arranging a night out with friends become an almost comical ‘I’ll-have-my-people-call-your-people-I’m-so-busy-I-can-maybe-squeeze-in-half-an-hour-on-Thursday’ farce that beggars belief? Yeah, it’s a sad sign of the times. I read this article a few months ago and it is so ridiculously on point. I’m guilty of much of it myself. This faux-busyness is an unfortunate cultural shift that’s taken place over the past few years. I’m actively trying to cut down on my ‘busy’ schedule. You’ll most likely recognise many of the traits in yourself. A sample:
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.
My father spent years working in advertising agencies, so I could really relate to this piece. Linds Redding was an advertising executive who died of cancer last year. He wrote this essay reflecting on a life in advertising which is pretty profound and ultimately concluded ‘It doesn’t matter’. I think anyone who works in the creative industries can relate to elements of this. A sample:
The creative industry operates largely by holding ‘creative’ people ransom to their own self-image, precarious sense of self-worth, and fragile – if occasionally out of control ego. We tend to set ourselves impossibly high standards, and are invariably our own toughest critics. Satisfying our own lofty demands is usually a lot harder than appeasing any client, who in my experience tend to have disappointingly low expectations. Most artists and designers I know would rather work all night than turn in a sub-standard job. It is a universal truth that all artists think they a frauds and charlatans, and live in constant fear of being exposed. We believe by working harder than anyone else we can evaded detection. The bean-counters rumbled this centuries ago and have been profitably exploiting this weakness ever since. You don’t have to drive creative folk like most workers. They drive themselves. Just wind ‘em up and let ‘em go.
So I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that annoys me about people recently. There’s just a general cloud of ‘blah’ hanging over everything, this ‘I don’t care!’ attitude that fills me with pretty intense rage. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was and then this article comes along and practically gets all the way inside my head and writes what it is I’ve been thinking. It’s irony that’s the problem. This culture of irony we’re living in is intensely irritating. Yes, you, you who leaves the house in your muthafrikkin’ onesie because you think it’s so damn funny, I’m talking to you. Man, I hope we get back to a time where people can actually live boldly and comfortably in their genuine choices. A sample:
Take, for example, an ad that calls itself an ad, makes fun of its own format, and attempts to lure its target market to laugh at and with it. It pre-emptively acknowledges its own failure to accomplish anything meaningful. No attack can be set against it, as it has already conquered itself. The ironic frame functions as a shield against criticism. The same goes for ironic living. Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.
This is a great essay written by Harlan Ellison (Harlan Ellison, the man behind the man who gives this most excellent ‘Pay the Writer’ rant – you can’t help but love him after that). I’m including this mainly because it’s so brilliantly written, it’s just a joy to read. If you need a chuckle, this will do the trick. Just go read it already.
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