Monday, January 31, 2011

Addictions to BEING a somebody...an Artist of Reputation?


Social networking such as Facebook, personal blogs...has been nothing short of amazing, putting oneself out there, gaining feedback on one's creative endeavors, critiques, honing in on areas for specific growth, teaching, sharing...

One of the cardinal rules of marketing is to put your best face forward, and not to become so understood that your potential genius is less appraised above all others.  Who needs a piece of somebody or at least pay thru the nose for it, who when it comes right down to it is as normal and common as another?  

Those that don't recognize or understand a skill that has been developed over the years, require being sold on an individual to justify their investment and prepare their defense of acquired works amongst their circles of status quo.  One way to do that...is to be less revealing, less transparent.  Stay clear of talk of politics, religion or controversial topics for one.

I find myself in a conundrum however...for I am not an artist only, that pushes and works to acquire skill and understanding; I am not so easily compartmentalized.  Besides being an artist, I am a father, a grandfather, a husband...friend to some.  I am a Christian...I have thoughts about good government versus corrupt and poor.  I am an outdoorsman, a sportsman, one who supports good sound wildlife management and conservation.  I am a musician continuing as I approach those 60's years (in about three years), to hone my guitar playing skill...write songs.  I am an author writing now my second book, and a videographer.  A workshop teacher...but alas, an educator since 1979...

I was a moderator and staff person at the near inception or beginning of Wetcanvas.com which is a virtual artist's community.  Myself joining when there were less than 1,000 members...and now well over 240,000 artists internationally.  I created eight forums, and held a position to see over them and help artists as a moderator to keep the peace, encourage, and teach..and did so for perhaps a little over a decade.  Retiring from that just recently...and, appreciate the days of working and living in isolation NOT having access to other artist's thoughts or ideas unless taking part in an exhibition or show.  We've come a long way with the internet.

I have seen my own flesh and blood grow from a young lad drawing at a kitchen table to becoming internationally known and celebrated.  I have experienced personal gain...but also personal loss, like many in the art biz, getting ripped off and as a result falling hard.  I've seen the good, I've seen the bad.  To sum up, I've learned its not what happens to you that matters, but in you,  and once a person learns that important life lesson...they begin to take the reins of control over how much power difficult moments in life are allowed to have.



For those that do not object to reading, I offer the following thoughts which come after reading David Kupelian's book, "How Evil Works"  (author of "The Marketing of Evil")  and specifically Kupelian's chapter titled, "The Secret Curse of Celebrity" which spoke greatly to me as an artist looking over my own life experiences.






















He starts off citing his youth, his pleasure in viewing the Wizard of OZ only later to find out that the actress Judy Garland lived a miserable life and died from a sleeping pill overdose.  Over the years, as he reminds us...many actors, performers, singers, artists...have done the same.  Self-destructive lifestyles...Marilyn Monroe, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, Keith Moon, Beatle's manager Brian Epstein, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, guitarist Mike Bloomfield, blues artist Paul Butterfield...John Belushi...on and on ...and most recently Australian born actor Heath Ledger...Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears...and then turning to the more criminal falling outs of celebrities...quoting Dr. S. Mark Young, points out "the behavior of today's celebrities is much more dramatically dysfunctional than it was a decade ago"

The chapter then analyzes, what is going on?  Why with all this success coming their way are these things seeming to be part of the package?  They've got it right...so what goes wrong?  What secret curse afflicts them?  Many...he points out, like so many rest of us..."are profoundly shaped by childhood traumas and other major life experiences"

Mark Ebner's short answer..."is ego. Insatiable ego.  Constantly massaged ego, 24-hour-a-day concierge ego.  400-thread-count linen at the five-star luxury dog kennel ego.  Trading in your pre-fame spouse for a world-class model ego."  A developing growing absurd sense of entitlement, which becomes in time downright pathological.  By comparison...Kupelian says it like this- "The full-time job of parenting requires absolute selflessness.  In contrast, the full-time job of celebrity requires absolute selfishness."

The desire to become a star requires an incredible appetite for attention and approval.  Approval, praise, applause, adulation, worship.  This he then very well details how desire for such while feeling great, does extremely weird things to human beings.

"Not for nothing does the Bible warn that worship is meant for God alone- in fact, it's the first of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3).  When humans are idolized and praised- or more precisely, when they lower themselves to accept that homage and bask in its warmth and glory- the idolized "star" starts to change profoundly for the worse."

The fixation on self leads to a very narcissistic tendency to the level of approaching personality-disorder levels.


 
According to the Mayo clinic, it's "a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration.  They believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings.  But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism."

"American culture's focus on self-admiration has causes a flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy"

"We have phony rich people (with interest-only mortgages and piles of debt), phony beauty (with plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures), phony athletes (with performance enhancing drugs), phony celebrities (via reality TV and You-Tube), phony genius students (with grade inflation), a phony national economy (with $14 trillion in government debt), phony feelings of being special among children (with parenting and education focused on self-esteem), and phony friends (with the social networking explosion).  All this fantasy might feel good, but, unfortunately, reality always wins.  The mortgage meltdown and the resulting financial crisis are just one demonstration of how inflated desires eventually crash to earth."

"Never mind the celebrities; their arrogance is equaled if not surpassed by the grandiosity of so-called average Americans."

"You see, on the one hand, narcissistic personality disorder is a genuine psychiatric condition with an extensive diagnostic symptom picture that pretty much corresponds with a classic sociopath- extreme delusions of grandeur, near-total lack of empathy for others, constant demands for adulation, and so on."

So...now we come to Kupelian beginning to wrap up his chapter with a spiritual analysis...

"Addicted to praise, super-sensitive to criticism?  We're talking about people whose entire sense of self-worth is based on what others say to them and about them.  Compliments make them "feel good" and criticism makes the "feel bad," which means other people are in control of how they feel.  Not good."

"This prompts a big-picture question:  why on earth are human beings- any of us- so insecure that we need approval and reassurance from others to maintain our sense of well-being?  And why are we so adversely affected by the unkind words of others?  Where does this lack of wholeness, this emptiness that craves reassurance, come from in the first place?"

"Furthermore, assuming we can agree that it's not ideal for us, as mature adults, to have our happiness based on the vacillating moods of other flawed people, the next unavoidable question is, If we're not meant to be rooted in the outside world, with all its confusion and outright craziness, what else is there to serve as the wellspring of our identity, confidence, contentment, and purpose, but something inside ourselves?"

"Yet what is there inside of us that could possibly fulfill such an extraordinary role, other than the direct influence of God?"

"We all know the answer, even though part of us reflexively doubts or denies it.  We all intuitively know we're here to be obedient to our Creator, who cares enough to enfold within each of us a tine bit of Himself, to light our way, to be a "lamp unto our feet."  We're literally designed for this purpose- to discover how to follow the moment-to-moment faith impulse God imparts to us from within, in an unbroken chain of service to Him.  In return, He gives us direction, purpose, energy, and genuine and lasting happiness, which means, among other things, we no longer crave the vain reassurances of other troubled souls."

Later continuing, the author says, "So, in a very tangible sense, human beings have two natures- one noble and the other very ignoble.  Our conscience pulls in one direction, urging us to strive toward honesty, patience, kindness, courage, and unselfishness, while the lower nature pulls downward on the strings of our thoughts and feelings, twoard anger, selfishness, lust, greed, resentment, and envy."

"Very simply, genuine change for the better is quite natural and effortless for the person who honestly recognizes and acknowledges his own flaws. but guess what?  If we are coked up on the anesthetizing "drug" of praise, or false love, we can't see our flaws.  To the contrary, we see our failings as virtues!"

"One problem...as happens with many performers, I became accustomed to the admiration of others.  But when you live for appreciation and applause, that motivation doesn't cease when you leave the stage.  All of life becomes a stage, and you're constantly performing to elicit a positive response from everyone else."

"We're not whole people, and in a ceaseless attempt to fill that inner emptiness with other people's "love" and approval, we're less than honest, we calculate what we say, how we come across, how we look, all to manipulate others to seeing us in a favorable way."

He goes on to discuss the dangers of our over inflating others' talents,  not wrong for example to say, "Good job, son, that was great!" but a huge difference from, "Son, you are so awesome.  And I am soooo proud of you.  You're just great, and handsome, and talented, and really really special!"  That kind of praise is corrupting, because whenever we build our pride, we're growing in conflict with God."

"It's a core truth about how evil works in our lives.  If we don't understand that by feeding our prideful ego, no matter how good it feels to us, we're just increasing our inner conflict with our Creator, then we don't understand ourselves, we don't understand life, and we don't know where true happiness is."

"Remember...if you are sensitive to people praising you- if you soak it up and feel nourished by it- you will also be very sensitive to people criticizing you."

If we get addicted to the drug of worship, it destroys us.

"Remember, what keeps us sane, happy, and moving in the right direction in this life is living in the light of constant, good-natured self-awareness.  It is that self-awareness, with our conscience brightly shining through it, that becomes the regulator of our life and makes our perceptions and decisions right and wholesome."

"When we worship someone, whether it's a movie star or our spouse, we are in effect robbing them of this precious relationship with the real god.  Although a part of them loves (is addicted to) the drug of praise, another deeper and more innocent part of them longs to be tread normally, honestly, soberly."

A good book that I highly recommend...dealing more perhaps with the destructive forces transforming America today...but for artists, creatives...this chapter was worth reading and chewing on.  What I have shared are excerpts that I highlighted and go back to every once in awhile.  The scriptures implore that, "you shall know the truth...and the truth will set you free"

The most subtle secret takeover of our well-being are those things that originate within us, hidden motives.  As Proverbs tells us, "the heart is most deceitful, what man can know it?"

Every once in awhile...you come across something well written by someone well dealt with by God over time, who in like manner comes across your consideration given your own past experiences, and it becomes a "wow!" moment...

Hope as we all here pursue our callings, our collective creative outpourings...you will find something here to both empower you and to help you recognize that motives need to be called into question.

I myself have gone thru some difficult hard transitions.  From convincing myself near 30 years ago that attaining a reputation in the arts with a name would jockey me into position to have positive influence on others.  Being the best you can be...a steward over time and developing your potentials is I think a noble cause, but it can be fueled by hidden longings, pampered and nurtured over time by praise til life becomes that stage and our hearts find itself unwittingly narcissistic.

I can look back at getting ripped off near a quarter million dollars perhaps as the greatest injustice and insult being an artist trying to take care of his family, however...I cannot deny going thru such trying times, such financial despair and heartache did much to loosen the hold that the "need" to be held in such high appraisal of others had on me.  To see what harm and evil other human beings in building their own egos and kingdoms are capable of has caused me to look beyond the smiles, the gestures, the extending hand to shake and assure, and perhaps even more so...look in the mirror and ask, "why...have you Larry Seiler, so badly over the years required the approval and high regard of others?" 

In some regards, I suppose I have lost opportunity that I would have otherwise and long ago jumped on, because pain naturally leads itself to cynicism and skepticism.  But, life is not so neatly packaged and managed, and sometimes it takes more than a chapter or two of one's life to fully begin to get a grasp and sense of it all.  Perhaps in the end...it is not the level one builds one's own kingdom here anyway, but that all of this God is using in preparing us for the next world to come.  That wisdom we gain...the knowing in our heart that He is central and only He is most worthy.

So...who knows what then is to come?  Working hard, living each day in and to itself.  Not wanting to be poor in my stewardship of that which God has given me, namely the talents and potential they can be used for, yet for very good reasons holding myself suspect, holding my other nature's motives at guard.  God will forgive me, I believe, for failing in all that I could have discovered possible to do in this fleshly body...but He knows I earnestly desire Him, and to honor Him.

Where I error now as I move on from here...that my caution means I might miss some opportunities, I pray He will be merciful and loving as always to help meet our needs, stand up to my responsibilities.  I pray the same for you all...

If you stayed the course long enough to finish reading this, I am humbled, perhaps even a bit surprised.  I think Kupelian gives us some great tidbits of wisdom here, and putting on such glasses of fair honesty, we perhaps can look in retrospect at our life's past greatest moments of difficulty and learn from them.

It is our necessary conundrum in today's world...that we need some status of becoming known, which may result in being celebrated, in order to market our work and effectively do our business end of art...but we must walk cautiously not to be lured in to believe our own press.  To that end, I will endeavor to continue to work very hard as an artist, but work not lose site of who I am as a father, husband...and everything else.  Its often quite hard to see and keep things in proper balance.


So, a tip of the hat and a thank you David Kupelian...at least, from this recovering addict...and perhaps with God's grace, I can resolve better who I am, undeniably an artist...but free (if I so choose to be) from what might hold sway, influence and power over me.

7 comments:

shari erickson said...

Larry,
Thank you for this inspired post. It takes a lot of courage to bare your soul as you have for the benefit of others. It is a hard thing for us artists to promote our work in such a way to be able to sell some of it out of necessity, without promoting our selves. Frankly, I don't know how artists who are not seeking God's will can take what this world throws back at them! God bless you Larry!

Jani Lori said...

Well said Larry...Thank you for continual inspiration.

Larry Seiler said...

thanks Shari, Jani...I'll letcha know how things go if I never sell anything now after this post!

Hahaha...just kidding...

blessings to you both

Sharon said...

Hi Larry: I am most inspired by your post on many levels. As a Christian artist myself, I am very aware that there is a very tempting 'art business model' out there which is very hedonistic. I thank you for your openness about your faith and its importance in your life. Hopefully you will win more readers than lose them.
May God continue to richly bless you, even more for your faithfulness to tell the Good News of Christ.

Sharon said...

Hi again: I just read the post prior to this one about you being accepted into OPA and AIS -congratulations!! I am wondering if that is what has prompted todays letter?? Indeed it is a difficult thing to deflect the praise of men and give it where it belongs, to God. I believe you know how to do just that!

Larry Seiler said...

well...its a tough call sometimes, Sharon...mindful of the cautions, at the same time the desire to be a steward of what one is given, and to take care/provide for one's own.

Things that have happened to me over the years have on one hand brought down any illusions of what pretense and motivations many have, and how selfishness, greed...can lead to the most hurtful actions of some.

My artist/son, Jason...has been gaining a great deal of international acclaim, with all that comes my encouragements, my concerns as well...but also, his speaking into my life as well. That my own candle's flame is not extinguished, and I could, should be doing more.

So...I walk lightly, as if on rice paper or egg shells. Mindlessly clamoring toward notoriety leads to a lot of clutter and noise that can blindside you, your judgments...and open you up for a fall. So, it is with some reservation, and yet...I know in this day and age it is one's "bio" that continues to open doors.

Putting food on the table, paying bills...just one of those things we have to do, but we have to be careful we aren't believing our own press about ourselves in the process...

Should have joined these two long ago...but awareness of my own lust for accolade kept me from it. So many talented artists out there now...it may even be foolish to think anyway that I should have to worry anymore about it. We shall see...guardedly so.

peace

Cheryl said...

Hi Larry,
As a Christian and an artist trying to find my voice, I very much appreciate your honesty in this piece. I must get this book and read... these things seem to require steeping and soaking. I believe that as we soak ourselves in Godly things that it will come forth in our hearts and art[s]. That's my hope. Selling would be great but still remains a minor byproduct for me. I really want to speak through my painting. I'm hopeful that the business side of art will follow my faithfullness.
following your blog,
Cheryl