26.4.20

Imagination Becoming Real

BOULDER, CO – I mention the following, for what it’s worth, as another angle on the problem of work, this time making use of an exposé of my own case. I want to be upfront about the fact that using details of my own story is intended to enliven creativity for readers, rather than just to valorize my own approach to The Disaster.

I think that the primary objection to any suggestion here that people must be proactive about re-imagining their livelihoods is that it’s a message to a privileged minority. People forced to inch through car lines for emergency relief packages are not able to think about livelihood, not until the basic needs of their families are covered. We all can understand that. Maybe we should make a disclaimer like:
‘For those who find themselves in the position of being restricted to the home with enough food, and free time . . .’

A person may seem self-centered and narcissistic to oneself, isolated, when allowing thoughts about securing a real livelihood now, of all times. However, I believe that for the good of the social sphere and shared infrastructure that we will retrieve and repopulate, as many people as possible would do well to bite the bullet now, and re-imagine their lives right away, posthaste. Survival requires imagination.

In the prior post about the Audience for ideas like that, we were careful to lay out the basic circumstances or demographics that I share with some readers, which include financial instability and threatened means of income during The Disaster.

Workplace hell: remote employees
maneuvering robotic video-avatars.
 
Anyway, the Workplace itself, writ large, already has changed forever; meanwhile the dastardly duo of The Disaster & ‘Disaster Capitalism’ is busily transfiguring and contorting its ‘wage-slavery’ sectors (ie, at least, what most humans experience as un-gainful employment) – and doubtless it’s happening now, as you read this, in order to foist the new dehumanizing regimes upon society as soon as our shelter-in-place orders lift.

Is that just being cynical? The rapid vaporization of millions of jobs to robotics and Artificial Intelligence, the very phenomenon of high-tech downsizing that Yang is warning us about, has received in the form of Covid-19 its perfect storm; please make no mistake about that.

A Humble Case Study

During this strange liminal zone we know as shelter-in-place, I have become convinced that my actual job and real work in life – a ‘livelihood’ – is philosophical activity, and, doing something invented that I call existential journalism, and of course practicing a few Arts. More precisely, in terms of the service to society this livelihood can contribute, its activities are creating, curating, and sharing philosophical experiences

But, that’s pie in the sky unless one’s daily experience changes accordingly with any such conviction.

During the period when, somewhat outlandishly, society has been ordered to stay home, and the majority barred from working (myself in that crowd), I just have taken the initiative, taken the bull by the horns – in a performance-arty way – by choosing myself for the ‘position’ I always have wanted. I finally realized this would be within reach only once given to myself.

Rather than a delusion, this conviction – ie, ‘my social, public role is philosopher-artist’ – has been bolstered by the way I have found myself using March’s weird, morbid flurry of days by acting as if I am a ‘nonattached’ philosopher, like a ronin, and then:

    • setting up shop online in that way,
    • writing from that point of view,
    • making accompanying videos,
    • recording myself reciting blog posts,
    • drawing in colored inks for the first time,
    • writing one-page stories,
    • recording myself reciting the stories,
      and,
    • organizing crowdfunding for all of these activities.

I have coped with The Disaster, at home, by doing all of the things that survival mode did not permit (that having been a figurative idiom, compared to its literalism now).

I have suspected for some time that to do what I wanted to do (finally and irreversibly launch into bonafide livelihood) would require at least several weeks off, and not for a vacation, but for the dynamic, creative leisure in which to reach escape velocity.

Believe me, I have never wished that a global plague, The Disaster, would isolate me at home for that amount of time, but this is what has happened. Focusing – when Death rides throughout the lands, and tens of thousands are dying – focusing despite a chronic underlying terror, is itself a philosophical praxis. It is an exercise straight out of the Stoics’ playbook, actually, especially because in Classical Antiquity plagues were less surprising than they are to us Postmoderns.
A heightened sense of urgency to pursue what is most important is the gift of greater awareness and respect for Death.

To Be a Philosopher

This soul-work, a real livelihood that includes income, is what I have playfully re-imagined by giving myself the role of inaugural Director for a new think-tank, called the ‘Philosophical Intelligence Agency’, which is a pretend think-tank for the moment. The P-I-A is serious play, insofar as imaginary things tend to become Real. I’m crowdfunding the P-I-A.

My official role assignment as
Director of P-I-A
There is performance art involved here, both privately in my solitary bedroom-world, yet online as well whenever I share the media output mentioned above. I have enjoyed, for example, ironing dress slacks and shirts, relearning the Double Windsor, then writing in costume (and shooting videos).

I expect that everyone who held a job or filled a professional position will need to relearn how to act like their former employee-selves at some point, because it will feel horribly awkward when returning to workplaces in the midst of The Disaster, still in its shadow (likely for the rest of the year), with people missing because they died.

I figured, one might as well relearn an entirely new, ideal livelihood on the heels of this aporetic moment, tragic as it is. Wouldn’t that be better than refreshing one’s former programming and training (faded away to some extent during shelter-in-place), which was required to be an employee, or a ‘position’-holder, rather than an invigorated, self-directed, contented human being?

The question: can someone reverse-engineer authentic livelihood during The Disaster, from pure imagination – use shelter-in-place to launch into a post-National-Emergency lifestyle that is entrepreneurial – and perhaps even employ crowdfunding?

I’ll tell ya how it goes!


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