non nobis solum nati
That’s a quote from Cicero’s On Duties, which he seemingly got from Plato. It basically means we’re created for the sake of others, to benefit each other as much as possible, from the Stoic ideal of giving and receiving kindnesses.
So, I’m John Fanning and this is the Create with John Fanning podcast.
How’s it goin out there? Hope all is well.
This is Episode 34 of my series of episodes on the Imagination, based around my book Create. Also, if this is your first time to the podcast please go back and listen to some of the earlier episodes to get an idea about where I’m coming from on process and everything else and especially as regards to the differentiation between Walls and Doors towards and away from the Imagination and creativity.
Last time I spoke about audience, patrons, and representation, but today I want to talk a little about benevolence.
So this series of episodes has been a process based one. I’ve discovered a lot by unpacking my book and extemporizing on it, learning new things in the interim as the months have passed. In this next part of the podcast I want to do the same thing, make it process based. To try to find out what others think and create so we can all learn from each other. But before I do that I have a few reasons why I need to take a break from the podcast:
First, there’s the many hours of production and research time for all the interviews I want to do. Again, to re-emphasize, this is not because I’ve come to the end of the podcast, simply the end of the first section. Also because I need to follow up on what I promised to all my patrons at the beginning of this project, that I would give it to them in book form. This will take time. I have to edit down what I’ve been talking about. To synthesize it all, make it better, to create a structure that’s clear and helpful.
With that in mind and to practice what I preached in episode 32 on community and feedback I’d really appreciate any feedback you all may have on what chapters should go first, what ones should go last, and what ones need to be edited down or perhaps other’s that need expansion. Like I said with Shakespeare and his company of co-creator friends, a work is even greater the more people around the creator helping to make it even better.
Secondly, I need a little more feedback: I need to know whether all you Patreon supporters would be interested in me reading one of my novels out over time until I’ve had time to start uploading interviews. The novel I’m thinking of reading is a sendup of the noir mystery genre set in a little village much like the one we left in the Black Mountains of southern France. Readers say it’s funny and entertaining but maybe it wouldn’t be so entertaining read aloud with my Irish brogue? Anyway, please let me know either through Patreon or instagram or by emailing me at John@johnfanning.me.
And thirdly, we just bought a new house. I was actually so busy renovating that I forgot to release this last episode on time last week. It only took us a year and half to find one in this crazy market of New England, and of course it needs a lot of work, which means I’ll be getting that done on weekends and some evenings after my day job, which means I’m not going to have the time to write or create podcasts because I’m now creating a house out of what was a shambles of a place, much like what we did with La Muse, but on a smaller scale. Maybe we’ll even turn the barn into a retreat for writers. Who knows.
Anyway, I hope you’ll bear with me as I do this, and then when I come back from renovating and maybe reading out my novel, I’ll start interviewing creators from all walks of life, to learn from them, just like I learned from my own experience and from all the creators I came in contact with at our retreat and since then. Because we never stop learning. Never stop understanding a subject, a field. And creativity, the imagination, is no different. It’s vast.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way there is one more thing I want to talk about, and that’s benevolence.
These episodes got about 30 to 40 likes on social media when I first started doing this. I think it’s far less now. I try not to look. If I were a good business man I would have stopped 20 episodes ago. But that’s not why I am doing this. I’m doing it because I trust benevolence.
We need to help each other more. We need more benevolence in the world. This is the new story we have to start creating, not the myth of rampant capitalism and progress and more and more of the failed Cartesian model. The new myth, the new manifesto needs to be service to others, compassion, benevolence.
We’re living in a form of Italian Futurism right now, a mechanized, destructive worldview, where fear is leading more and more people down the path of nationalism. No wonder Mussolini loved Futurism. We need to embrace the arrogance of the Futurists but for a different manifesto, a different myth, the story of a natural, creative worldview, the present. It could even be called Presentism, a manifesto for only what is needed, not the fulfillment of every desire we have, and the consideration of those around us, even those we do not know, in a compassionate and benevolent way.
Why a manifesto of service though? Why should we become Presentists instead of Futurists? Because our collective experience is under unprecedented pressure. We’ve entered the Anthropocene age because of human business-as-usual and we can’t expect unethical corporations to help with their sociopathic economics. The waves get bigger as the water levels rise. Climate change and all it has caused and will cause. Population rise: Delhi has five times more people in it than the whole population of Ireland. Acceleration of time through our heightened reliance on technology and the continual emergence of new technologies. We’re on data overload, and to make matters worse data has become the new gold rush, the new oil rush. Our organisms can hardly handle it any more. We’re watched online by governments and corporations. We’re analyzed by both. We’re replaced by technologies — everything is becoming automatized, from insurance to banking, yet our population continues to grow.
We saw the effects every month at our retreat on people from every continent coming to create. They arrive, more exhausted, not from travel, but from what they call the pressure of “accelerated living”. You can be contacted all the time, no matter where you are, and everybody wants an immediate response or “update”.
Our culture is no longer biological. It’s becoming a technological culture. Because of this new reality, we need to help each other more, because this change, this ongoing transition, is difficult for everyone. By bringing some form of creative spiritual impulse back into government, like Gandhi did, like Martin Luther King did, like the Quakers did with abolition. This connection, the “religio” in religion, is what’s missing. As Margaret Mead presumably once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The list is long and keeps growing from the Suffragettes and Rosa Parks to Winona LaDuke, Malala Yousafzai and Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski.
By becoming a creator we can combat the conformism, the servitude to technology, as it needs us creatives to have an audience to use it. To many in business and politics the engineering of consent is the highest expression of democracy, where power leads the people when the people think they are in charge. The growth of the mass-consumer society has made us slaves to our desires, manipulated by corporations and governments. If we are all “seeing” the same reality through devices, usually at the same time, then we really do have to be careful about this conformism. We need to understand how important needs are, not fulfilling desires like public relations departments want us to do. We do not need to buy a better version of ourselves, only stuff we actually need.
When people go on retreat to create, some switch off their phones and put away their computers until the weekend. The change in them is radical. They literally clean themselves out.
All technology is not bad, but instead of growing, evolving our societies, our planet, these technologies are being used by many for negative purposes, to manipulate and control rather than ameliorate our lives. Our quality of life could be so positively affected, but instead we are forgetting benevolence.
We set up our writers and artists retreat to help people like us find a space to create. If you weren’t published, with reviews, didn’t have shows in Soho or Manhattan, then where did you go? Yaddo? No. You’re not established. La Muse has people who’re just starting out and people who are well-known in their fields. When we started there was hardly anyone, but with time they came. They’re still going there two decades later.
If you see something missing in the world, then create it. Do it yourself, but more importantly, do it for others. Be benevolent.
We’ve lost this way of being in the world. So, when you become successful, please help others. It doesn’t, pardon the pun, cost you anything.
I used to bored our writers and artists to death with how they need to get websites, Instagram accounts, establish themselves, ask for help. This was another way of me giving back. I found it exhausting. So why did I keep doing it? Because their work, their creations need to get out into the world, and if they’re not putting them out there, nobody else will do it for them. And if I’m benevolent to them they’ll probably be benevolent to others. It creates a sustainable culture of creation, which has positive implications for them, and ultimately, all of us.
Maybe you only listened to an episode here and there. Maybe this is episode is all you listened to. Well if you did or are then you’re the reason I’ve put everything I can down – to help you. I know there are things left out — nobody’s perfect, no work is perfect, and everything is always changing. But I hope something, even one idea, stays with you, helps you, inspires you to continue, or start to create.
Creation changes people. I’ve seen it, in myself, in others. Create and you’ll see it in yourself too. You discover yourself by creating. It’s not about other people, what they want your creation to be. It’s about what you love, what you need to create.
Life’s holistic, not a straight line. We can’t plan everything about the path we’re going to take, but we can be benevolently creative as we make creative steps forward. We can do that through awareness of the walls and how we can move through them with creation, by carefully listening to where inspiration is telling us to go. And we can do that together, by being creative about our futures and the future of this planet, because in the end, we are one people, one planet.
This is why I created this book. I needed to help in some way. Right now though, it’s your creation that matters to me. So, you know: Create!
So thanks for listening. I started with a quote from a Roman statesman and philosopher by way of a Greek philosopher, but as always I’m going to end the episode with an Irish proverb. This one means:
People live in one another’s shadows.
Maireann na daoine ar scáil a chéile.
This podcast is supported by you the listener via my Patreon page. It aint no radio show. There’s no advertisers etc. paying for this, which is great because nobody’s telling me what I should and shouldn’t say or think. Independent. If ya want to support the podcast and help me get paid for doing it then please head over to patreon.com/johnfanning where you can get early and ad free access as well as extra episodes when ya sign up. Ifya can afford it then give me the cost of a price of a cup of tea or pint once a month. Ifya can’t afford it that’s grand too, ya can listen for free, but please subscribe to it on iTunes or wherever you listen to it and leave a review on itunes too or wherever ya listen to it and let your friends know about it so the listenership grows. Thank you! And thanks for listening. If you’re looking for more episodes you can find them on all the usual places like iTunes – or on my website at johnfanning.me under “podcast” where I’ve put up overview transcripts with links to all the people and ideas I mention. If you’re into social stuff and you’re looking to engage with me one-on-one, check me out on twitter @fanning_j and instagram @ johnfanning_. It’s been great sharing stuff with you today so until next time take care out there and do the work but above all be benevolent when you can!
Slán libh agus go n-éirí an bóthar libh.