Here are some notes I wrote a couple of days ago about forms of relationship people have with culture.
-What I mean by "culture" here is a bit vague. It's something like the sum total of cultural production (art, philosophy, etc.).
-Each of the "types" described below can be embodied by any of us at different times and there is a lot of breeding between types, but most of us live predominantly within one of the types.
-I am using masculine pronouns all the way through for various reasons ranging from laziness to feminism which I won't get into here (follow-up coming soon). Just trust that I am a die-hard feminist and that I have good reasons for this.
FORMS OF ENGAGEMENT WITH CULTURE
The Philistine simply ignores the existence of the vast majority of cultural works. The idea of culture is as vague to him as it can be in the current world, where there is always a leak from culture to subject. The Philistine is disengaged from life in general. His identity is determined by the little sound that leaks from culture and by the ignored vastness implicit in that little sound. The little sound he gets from culture does not allow him even the direct connection with life, the pure flow of creativity that he might have had otherwise. He might have hostility toward culture, since culture is what places him in a position of inferiority. If he has no hostility it is worse, because then his inferiority is embraced and he adopts a slave mentality, ready to serve anyone who is even slightly less ignorant than him. He is doomed to live in the world while being alienated from the world. The Philistine can have barbaric power at times, the power to kill and not care.
The Pedant is aware of the existence of the most popular cultural pieces. The idea of culture is less vague to him, but it is still vague in comparison to what it could be. He has heard of the most popular cultural pieces and has a relationship of submissiveness to them. His identity is determined by his lack of intimacy with the pieces he has heard of. His mind is a collection of empty giants. He loves Deleuze and Chomsky but is unable to say more than a few superficial words on what he supposedly loves about them. He loves them because it is cool to love them. He wants to be in the team of those who have intimacy with culture without going through the process of acquiring intimacy. His connection is not with culture directly, but with the idea of culture as it is propagated by culture itself.
Has vast encyclopedic knowledge of particular area(s) of culture but lacks the intimacy that only a creator can have with a creative piece. He lacks the deep connection with central ideas from which all the details would flow effortlessly. He has an entire (or almost entire) collection of details without having connected to the source that generated the details in the first place. He has excellent memory, knows things by heart, is able to recite, etc. But his knowledge is all external: the quality of connection with the works he knows is external and the aim of the connection is to make him praiseworthy externally, i.e., to others (or even externally to himself). His aim in life is primarily to rise above the level of the philistine and the pedant. In a way he becomes what he denies, i.e., since the images of the philistine and the pedant are so present to him, he ends up being a bit of a philistine and pedant.
The Philistine Creator
Is a creator in the sense that he is connected to his own internal life above all else. Is a philistine in the sense that he has no interest in the thought/creation/vocabulary of others and cannot establish a relation between his own internal world and that of other creators. He is distracted from culture, but is constantly generating culture within himself. He is generally distracted and is seen by others as a distracted person, but his distraction from external life arises from deep focus in internal life. He is extremely focused in his internal culture and there is no room left to acquire what is external to himself.
The Pedantic Creator
Is a creator in the sense that he is connected to his own internal life and is pedantic in the sense that he is submissive to the empty cultural giants he worships. He has enough creative intelligence to connect to the cultural pieces he is vaguely aware of and also to produce pieces of good quality, which might even deserve a place in culture. He wants to be recognized by culture as a producer of culture. The Pedantic Creator is haunted by this lack of recognition, which is constantly felt.
The Specialist Creator
Is deeply connected both to his internal life and to culture. Is able to connect to the source of the many works he memorized details from and is able to produce works of the same quality. The more he produces, the vaster his knowledge of the work of others becomes. Internal and external life are deeply integrated and feed one another endlessly. But all aspects of his existence (internal and external) are linked to culture. The Specialist Creator respects culture (too much?) and lives in the breast of culture. He takes culture seriously and takes himself seriously as a producer of culture.
Is as capable as the Specialist Creator but doesn’t see the point of the whole industry anymore. Sees the ridicule in creative activity itself and in the way it is absorbed by the public. Sees that culture requires ignorance, that people only consume culture blindly because they are ignorant. Sees that where there is specialism there is necessarily ignorance and alienation. Wants to step back and make fun of the whole spectacle. He has the added dimension of humor with all the disengagement that generates and is generated by humor. He has the same capability of the Specialist Creator, but is unable to take things as seriously. Might be a “crazy genius”. This is where genius and madness merge. But… The Satirist lives a paradox. He is defined by the culture that he criticizes. He is unable to live his authenticity fully because he is a NOT. He is a wise negation of culture, instead of an affirmation of something else. Negation is unstable and the object one negates exerts fascination and ends up attracting. The Satirist produces great criticism of culture, but is engulfed in the paradox of the fact that his criticism is also culture. He has to accept that his negation of culture is pervaded by the elements he wants to negate and that he needs the attention of the people he wants to debunk for his activity to make any sense. The Satirist has a political dimension. His anti-establishment focus is applied to political and social organizations just as well as it is applied to art, philosophy, etc. He envisions a culture in which there would be more authentic producers and less blind consumers.
Has “conquered the need to conquer the world” (Pressfield). Is as capable as the Specialist Creator and as keen as the Satirist, but has understood that there is something greater beyond the need to know, produce, or criticize culture. The Sage is truly FREE from culture. His freedom is the outcome of a process of deep contemplation. The Sage truly lives. His life is an affirmation. His life is real. There is nothing virtual about it. He is in the real world, with real people. He understands the human. He wants to give and to be of service to people in real life and has escaped the ideal of culture as a defining force.