21 March 2005

The great debate

There needs to be a word for this. I've encountered it and experienced it many times. Maybe it should be called the "anxiety of arrogance" a la Bloom's Anxiety of Influence. That phrase encapsulates the terror of any artist creating in the shadow of greats: how could you ever attempt to create something unique and compelling when such geniuses walked before? Similarly-but-different, so many of us lay-people are terrified about being critics. Either it's some aberrant Americanism where we don't want to imagine that some things aren't created equal, or some humbling modernism where we don't believe that we're qualified to know what's better even if our values weren't socially constructed.

What to do?

I suffer this new-fangled anxiety and generally err on the side of honesty. Being completely up front allows those in-the-know (or at least in-the-know-more-than-I-do) to occasionally slap me silly and send me on my way. Honesty has it's own flaws--the tendency towards arrogance when your idea doesn't get challenged because it's so idiotic, and you take that as affirmation--but that's the price of freedom. Be ever vigilant. No one wants to queer the deal, so they say they're "cautiously optimistic." Similarly, I'll say I'm "tentatively confident" about my opinions.

That being said: there is some Art that's better than others. I look at the extremes next to each other: the sublime next to the nauseating or the engrossing next to the prurient. There has to be something eternal in there. Some reasons are obvious (effortless skill next to inept pandering), yet when the extremes are narrowed it can become difficult to know where unique expression has given way to lazy experimentalism. Or simply too many adjectives.

[ posted by sstrader on 21 March 2005 at 11:43:29 PM in Culture & Society ]