West Responding to: “Is there a crisis in our culture”
“Let us accept the definition of culture offered as a way of life and may we define crisis in terms of instability. However perhaps this question presumes that at some point culture was not in crisis. Was not culture from its very inception one of the many tools human beings devised to manage their perpetual state of crisis?
When the presence of man on earth was much smaller, daily existence was a battle against hunger, the elements, and more powerful predators. Of course, the same is true today despite the distractions and illusions we create to hide our consciousness from this reality. Cultures developed among groups of individuals increasing their chance of survival so long as individuals agreed on best practices and external conditions remained the same (i.e. no new threats emerged).
Consider these ideas from a more scientific perspective. Absolutely nothing that we know about the physical world suggests that anything has ever been truly static at any point in the universe. Even the word “universe” does not retain the meaning of “space that contains all things in existence” as astro- and theoretical physicists posit the strong likelihood of an infinite number of universes.
I suggest that culture is not the thing in crisis. We are. If culture is a way of life, what is life but a struggle against death. We are now more aware than ever that conditions are changing on this planet. Simultaneously, there is less and less agreement between individuals and groups as to the best practice for survival within these dynamic conditions. The cherry on top of this shit sundae is that it is increasingly apparent that the biggest threat to humans (and every other creature on the planet) is other human beings through any number of apocalyptic cocktails: global climate change, overpopulation, destruction of natural habitats, etc.
Essentially every group imaginable is screaming crisis magnified times a million and one through the conduit of the internet and they are more or less right about that part. There simply is no consensus on what that crisis is or what to do about it. We can break this down as follows: humans are soft fleshy specks on a rock hurtling around a slowly dying star at 67,000 mph swirling in a raging sea of bullshit that we created.
Most religious traditions contain some notion of acceptance of realities that we are powerless to control. It is my position that this raging sea of bullshit we find ourselves in is one such reality. We can no more control it than we can fill the vastness of space with air and hospitable conditions for humans.
As artists, or anyone in any other profession for that matter, we are incapable of creating one thing that single-handedly changes the trajectory of humanity. If we, in our hubris, hope to submit any meaningful contribution, we must be unrelenting in our search for what is true and earnest. We must speak to what is good and right for humans as only one being amongst the hosts of all living beings. We must accept our own fallibility and always keep it in the forefront of our minds. A cognizance of the evolution of our craft over the many millennia of its existence is of great importance if we are to inch it forward in a meaningful way. Finally, we must be uncompromising in our pursuit of excellence in what we do. If artists adhere to these principles, we can be molecules in a trickle of water that slowly erodes a meandering path through a mountain that maybe, possibly, hopefully succeeding generations may one day use as a channel. I accept that.”