Ram Dass (RIP) Offers Wisdom on Confronting Aging and Dying

After his dismissal from Harvard for researching LSD with Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert left the U.S. for India in 1967. He devoted himself to the teachings of Hindu teacher Neem Karoli Baba and returned to the States a permanently changed man, with a new name and a message he first spread via the collaboratively-edited and illustrated 1971 classic Be Here Now.

In the “philosophically misty, stubbornly resonant Buddhist-Hindu-Christian mash-up,” writes David Marchese at The New York Times, Ram Dass “extolled the now-commonplace, then-novel (to Western hippies, at least) idea that paying deep attention to the present moment—that is, mindfulness—is the best path to a meaningful life.” We’ve grown so used to hearing this by now that we’ve likely become a little numb to it, even if we’ve bought into the premise and the practice of meditation.




Ram Dass discovered that mindful awareness was not part of any self-improvement project but a way of being ordinary and abandoning excess self-concern. “The more your awareness is expanded, the more it becomes just a natural part of your life, like eating or sleeping or going to the toilet” he says in the excerpt above from a talk he gave on “Conscious Aging” in 1992. “If you’re full of ego, if you’re full of yourself, you’re doing it out of righteousness to prove you’re a good person.”

To really open ourselves up to reality, we must be willing to put desire aside and become “irrelevant.” That’s a tough ask in a culture that values few things more highly than fame, youth, and beauty and fears nothing more than aging, loss, and death. Our culture “denigrates non-youth,” Ram Dass wrote in 2017, and thus stigmatizes and ignores a natural process everyone must all endure if they live long enough.

[W]hat I realized many years ago was I went into training to be a kind of elder, or social philosopher, or find a role that would be comfortable as I became irrelevant in the youth market. Now I’ve seen in interviewing old people that the minute you cling to something that was a moment ago, you suffer. You suffer when you have your face lifted to be who you wish you were then, for a little longer, because you know it’s temporary.

The minute you pit yourself against nature, the minute you pit yourself with your mind against change, you are asking for suffering.

Older adults are projected to outnumber children in the next decade or so, with a healthcare system designed to extract maximum profit for the minimal amount of care. The denial of aging and death creates “a very cruel culture,” Ram Dass writes, “and the bizarre situation is that as the demographic changes, and the baby boomers come along and get old, what you have is an aging society and a youth mythology”—a recipe for mass suffering if there ever was one.

We can and should, Ram Dass believed, advocate for better social policy. But to change our collective approach to aging and death, we must also, individually, confront our own fears of mortality, no matter how old we are at the moment. The spiritual teacher and writer, who passed away yesterday at age 88, confronted death for decades and helped students do the same with books like 2001’s Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying and his series of talks on “Conscious Aging,” which you can hear in full further up.

“Recorded at the Conscious Aging conference sponsored by the Omega Institute in 1992,” notes the Ram Dass Love Serve Remember Foundation, the conference “was the first of its kind on aging. Ram Dass had just turned sixty.” He begins his first talk with a joke about purchasing his first senior citizen ticket and says he felt like a teenager until he hit fifty. But joking aside, he learned early that really living in the present means facing aging and death in all its forms.

Ram Dass met aging with wisdom, humor, and compassion, as you can see in the recent video above. As we remember his life, we can also turn to decades of his teaching to learn how to become kinder to ourselves and others (a distinction without a real difference, he argued), as we all face the inevitable together.

Related Content:

The Wisdom of Ram Dass Is Now Online: Stream 150 of His Enlightened Spiritual Talks as Free Podcasts

You’re Only As Old As You Feel: Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer Shows How Mental Attitude Can Potentially Reverse the Effects of Aging

Bertrand Russell’s Advice For How (Not) to Grow Old: “Make Your Interests Gradually Wider and More Impersonal”

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Zen of Bill Murray: I Want to Be “Really Here, Really in It, Really Alive in the Moment”

We all know, on the deepest level, what we have the potential to achieve; once in a great while, we even catch glimpses of just what we could do if only we put our minds to it. But what, if anything, does it mean to "put our minds to it"? In breaking down that cliché, we might look to the example of Bill Murray, an actor for whom breaking down clichés has become a method of not just working but living. In the 2015 Charlie Rose clip above, Murray tells of receiving a late-night phone call from a friend's drunken sister. "You have no idea how much you could do, Bill, if you could just — you can do so much," the woman kept insisting. But to the still more or less asleep Murray, her voice sounded like that of "a visionary speaking to you in the night and coming to you in your dream."

Through her inebriation, this woman spoke directly to a persistent desire of Murray's, one he describes when Rose asks him "what it is that you want that you don't have." Murray replies that he'd "like to be more consistently here," that he'd like to "see how long I can last as being really here — you know, really in it, really alive in the moment." He'd like to see what he could do if he could stay off human auto-pilot, if he "were able to not get distracted, to not change channels in my mind and body, so I would just, you know, be my own channel." He grounds this potentially spiritual-sounding idea in physical terms: "It is all contained in your body, everything you've got: your mind, your spirit, your soul, your emotions, it is all contained in your body. All the prospects, all the chances you ever have."




Murray had spoken in even more detail of the body's importance at the previous year's Toronto International Film Festival. "How much do you weigh?" he asked his audience there, leading them into an impromptu guided meditation. "Try to feel that weight in your seat right now, in your bottom right now." If you can "feel that weight in your body, if you can come back into the most personal identification, a very personal identification, which is: I am. This is me now. Here I am, right now. This is me now." The idea is to be here now, to borrow the words with which countercultural icon Ram Dass titled his most popular book. But Murray approached it by reading something quite different: the writings of Greco-Armenian Sufi mystic George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, whose contribution to Murray's comedic persona we've previously featured here on Open Culture.

Gurdjieff believed that most of us live out our lives in a hypnosis-like state of "waking sleep," never touching the state of higher consciousness that might allow us to more clearly perceive reality and more fully realize our potential. In recent years, Murray has taken on something like this role himself, having "long bypassed mere celebrity status to become something close to a spiritual symbol, a guru of zen, and his frequent appearances among the masses (in a karaoke bar! In a couple’s engagement photo!) are reported on the internet with the excitement of sightings of the messiah." So writes the Guardian's Hadley Freeman in a Murray profile from 2019, which quotes the actor-comedian-trickster-Ghostbuster-bodhisattva returning to his wish to attain an ever-greater state of presence. "If there’s life happening and you run from it, you’re not doing the world a favor," he says. "You have to engage." And if you do, you may discover possibilities you'd never even suspected before.

Related Content:

The Philosophy of Bill Murray: The Intellectual Foundations of His Comedic Persona

Listen to Bill Murray Lead a Guided Mediation on How It Feels to Be Bill Murray

An Animated Bill Murray on the Advantages & Disadvantages of Fame

Nine Tips from Bill Murray & Cellist Jan Vogler on How to Study Intensely and Optimize Your Learning

What Is Higher Consciousness?: How We Can Transcend Our Petty, Day-to-Day Desires and Gain a Deeper Wisdom

97-Year-Old Philosopher Ponders the Meaning of Life: “What Is the Point of It All?”

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

“The Philosophy of “Flow”: A Brief Introduction to Taoism

“In the West,” the I Ching, or the Book of Changes, “is mainly known as a divination manual,” writes philosopher and novelist Will Buckingham, “part of the wild carnival of spurious notions that is New Age spirituality.” But just as one can use the Tarot as a means of reading the present, rather than predicting future events, so too can the I Ching serve to remind us, again and again, of a principle we are too apt to forget: the critical importance of non-action, or what is called wu wei in Chinese philosophy.

Non-action is not passivity, though it has been mischaracterized as such by cultures that overvalue aggression and self-assertion. It is a way of exercising power by attuning to the rhythms of its mysterious source. In the religious and philosophical tradition that became known as Taoism, non-action achieves its most canonical expression in the Tao Te Ching, the classic text attributed to sixth century B.C.E. thinker Laozi, who may or may not have been a real historical figure.




The Tao Te Ching describes non-action as a paradox in which dualistic tensions like passivity and aggression resolve.

That which offers no resistance,
Overcomes the hardest substances.
That which offers no resistance
Can enter where there is no space.
Few in the world can comprehend
The teaching without words, or
Understand the value of non-action.

Wu wei is sometimes translated as “effortless action” or the “action of non-action,” phrases that highlight its dynamic quality. Arthur Waley used the phrase “actionless activity” in his English version of the Tao Te Ching. In the short video introduction above, “philosophical entertainer” Einzelgänger explains “the practical sense” of wu wei in terms of that which athletes call “the zone,” a state of “action without striving” in which bodies “move through space effortlessly.” But non-action is also an inner quality, characterized by its depth and stillness as much as its strength.

Among the many symbols of wu wei is the action of water against stone—a graceful organic movement that “overcomes the hardest substances” and “can enter where there is no space.” The image illustrates what Einzelgänger explains in contemporary terms as a “philosophy of flow.” We cannot grasp the Tao—the hidden creative energy that animates the universe—with discursive formulas and definitions. But we can meet it through “stillness of mind, curbing the senses, being humble, and the cessation of striving, in order to open ourselves up to the workings of the universe.”

The state of “flow,” or total absorption in the present, has been popularized by psychologists in recent years, who describe it as the secret to achieving creative fulfillment. Non-action has its analogues in Stoicism's amor fati, Zen's "backward step," and Henri Bergson's élan vital. In the Tao te Ching, the Way appears as both a metaphysical, if enigmatic, philosophy and a practical approach to life that transcends our individual goals. It is an improvisatory practice which, like rivers carving out their beds, requires time and persistence to master.

In a story told by Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi, a renowned butcher is asked to explain his seemingly effortless skill at carving up an ox. He replies it is the product of years of training, during which he renounced the struggle to achieve, and came to rely on intuition rather than perception or brute force. Embracing non-action reveals to us the paths down which our talents naturally take us when we stop fighting with life. And it can show us how to handle what seem like insoluble problems by moving through, over, and around them rather than crashing into them head on.

Related Content:

Creativity, Not Money, is the Key to Happiness: Discover Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s Theory of “Flow”

Albert Einstein Tells His Son The Key to Learning & Happiness is Losing Yourself in Creativity (or “Finding Flow”)

Slavoj Žižek: What Fullfils You Creatively Isn’t What Makes You Happy

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Radical Tea Towels Offer a Graphic Crash Course in Progressive American History

Those of us who are deeply disappointed to learn we won’t be seeing Harriet Tubman’s face on a redesigned $20 bill any time soon can dry our eyes on a Tubman tea towel… or could if the revered abolitionist and activist wasn’t one of the family-owned Radical Tea Towel’s hottest selling items.

The popular design, based on one of Charles Ross’ murals in Cambridge, Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Memorial Garden is currently out of stock.

Fortunately, the company has immortalized plenty of other inspirational feminists, activists, civil rights leaders, authors, and thinkers on cotton rectangles, suitable for all your dish drying and gift giving needs.

Or wave them at a demonstration, on the creators’ suggestion.

The need for radical tea towels was hatched as one of the company’s Welsh co-founder’s was searching in vain for a practical birthday present that would reflect her 92-year-old father’s progressive values.

Five years later, bombarded with distressing post-election messages from the States, they decided to expand across the pond, to highlight the achievements of “amazing Americans who've fought the cause of freedom and equality over the years.”

The description of each towel's subject speaks to the passion for history, education  and justice the founders—a mother, father, and adult son—bring to the project. Here, for example, is their write up on Muhammad Ali, above:

He was born Cassius Clay and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, but the name the world knew him by was simply, 'The Greatest.’ Through his remarkable boxing career, Ali is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and was an inspiring, controversial and polarising figure both inside and outside the ring. 

Ali started boxing as a 12-year-old because he wanted to take revenge on the boy who stole his bike, and at 25, he lost his boxing licence for refusing to fight in Vietnam. (‘Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam when so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?’ He demanded.) It was perhaps the only time he surrendered: millions of dollars, the love of his nation, his career… but it was for what he believed in. And although his views on race were often confused, this was just example of his Civil Rights activism.

Ali became a lightning rod for dissent, setting an example of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the Civil Rights Movement. And he took no punch lying down – neither inside the boxing ring nor in the fight for equality: after being refused service in a whites-only restaurant in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, he reportedly threw the Olympic gold medal he had just won in Rome into the Ohio River. So, here’s an empowering gift celebrating the man who never threw in the (tea) towel.

The Radical Tea Towel blog is such stuff as will bring a grateful tear to an AP US History teacher’s eye. The Forebears We Share: Learning from Radical History is a good place to start. Other topics include Abigail Adam’s American Revolution advocacy, the bridge designs of revolutionary philosopher Thomas Paine, and Bruce Springsteen’s love of protest songs.

(The Radical Tea Towel design team has yet to pay tribute to The Boss, but until they do, we can rest easy knowing author John Steinbeck’s towel embodies Springsteen’s sentiment. )

Lest our educational dishcloths lull us into thinking we know more about our country than we actually do, the company’s website has a radical history quiz, modeled on the US history and government naturalization test which would-be Americans must pass with a score of at least 60%. This one is, unsurprisingly, geared toward progressive history. Test your knowledge to earn a tea towel discount code.

Begin your Radical Tea Towel explorations here, and don't neglect to take in all the rad designs celebrating the upcoming centennial of women's suffrage.

Related Content: 

2,200 Radical Political Posters Digitized: A New Archive

11 Essential Feminist Books: A New Reading List by The New York Public Library

Download 834 Radical Zines From a Revolutionary Online Archive: Globalization, Punk Music, the Industrial Prison Complex & More

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Hannah Arendt Explains Why Democracies Need to Safeguard the Free Press & Truth … to Defend Themselves Against Dictators and Their Lies

Image by Bernd Schwabe, via Wikimedia Commons

Two of the most trenchant and enduring critics of authoritarianism, Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, were also both German Jews who emigrated to the U.S. to escape the Nazis. The Marxist Adorno saw fascist tendencies everywhere in his new country. Decades before Noam Chomsky coined the concept, he argued that all mass media under advanced capitalism served one particular purpose: manufacturing consent.

Arendt landed on a different part of the political spectrum, drawing her philosophy from Aristotle and St. Augustine. Classical democratic ideals and an ethics of moral responsibility informed her belief in the central importance of shared reality in a functioning civil society—of a press that is free not only to publish what it wishes, but to take responsibility for telling the truth, without which democracy becomes impossible.




A press that disseminates half-truths and propaganda, Arendt argued, is not a feature of liberalism but a sign of authoritarian rule. “Totalitarian rulers organize… mass sentiment,” she told French writer Roger Errera in 1974, “and by organizing it articulate it, and by articulating it make the people somehow love it. They were told before, thou should not kill; and they didn’t kill. Now they are told, thou shalt kill; and although they think it’s very difficult to kill, they do it because it’s now part of the code of behavior.”

This breakdown of moral norms, Arendt argued, can occur “the moment we no longer have a free press.” The problem, however, is more complicated than mass media that spreads lies. Echoing ideas developed in her 1951 study The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt explained that “lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows.”

Bombarded with contradictory and often incredible claims, people become cynical and give up trying to understand anything. “And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.” The statement was anything but theoretical. It's an empirical observation from much recent 20th century history.

Arendt’s thought developed in relation to totalitarian regimes that actively censored, controlled, and micromanaged the press to achieve specific ends. She does not address the current situation in which we find ourselves—though Adorno certainly did: a press controlled not directly by the government but by an increasingly few, and increasingly monolithic and powerful, number of corporations, all with vested interests in policy direction that preserves and expands their influence.

The examples of undue influence multiply. One might consider the recently approved Gannett-Gatehouse merger, which brought together two of the biggest news publishers in the country and may “speed the demise of local news,” as Michael Posner writes at Forbes, thereby further opening the doors for rumor, speculation, and targeted disinformation. But in such a condition, we are not powerless as individuals, Arendt argued, even if the preconditions for a democratic society are undermined.

Though the facts may be confused or obscured, we retain the capacity for moral judgment, for assessing deeper truths about the character of those in power. “In acting and speaking,” she wrote in 1975’s The Human Condition, “men show who they are, reveal actively their unique personal identities…. This disclosure of ‘who’ in contradistinction to ‘what’ somebody is—his qualities, gifts, talents, and shortcomings, which he may display or hide—is implicit in everything somebody says and does.”

Even if democratic institutions let the free press fail, Arendt argued, we each bear a personal responsibility under authoritarian rule to judge and to act—or to refuse—in an ethics predicated on what she called, after Socrates, the “silent dialogue between me and myself.”

Read Arendt's full passage on the free press and truth below:

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

via Michio Kakutani

Related Content:

Hannah Arendt on “Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship:” Better to Suffer Than Collaborate

Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Morality: Insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism

Enter the Hannah Arendt Archives & Discover Rare Audio Lectures, Manuscripts, Marginalia, Letters, Postcards & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

What Is Higher Consciousness?: How We Can Transcend Our Petty, Day-to-Day Desires and Gain a Deeper Wisdom

Each of us has a normal state of mind, as well as our own way of reaching a different state of mind. As the School of Life video above reminds us, such habits go back quite deep into recorded history, to the eras when, then as now, "Hindu sages, Christian monks and Buddhist ascetics" spoke of "reaching moments of ‘higher consciousness’ – through meditation or chanting, fasting or pilgrimages." In recent years, the practice of meditation has spread even, and perhaps especially, among those of us who don't subscribe to Buddhism, or indeed to any religion at all. Periodic fasting has come to be seen as a necessity in certain circles of wealthy first-worlders, as has "dopamine fasting" among those who feel their minds compromised by the distractions of high technology and social media. (And one needs only glance at that social media to see how seriously some of us are taking our pilgrimages.)

Still, on top of our mountain, deep into our sitting-and-breathing sessions, or even after having consumed our mind-altering substance of choice, we do feel, if only for a moment, that something has changed within us. We understand things we don't even consider understanding in our normal state of mind, "where what we are principally concerned with is ourselves, our survival and our own success, narrowly defined."




When we occupy this "lower consciousness," we "strike back when we’re hit, blame others, quell any stray questions that lack immediate relevance, fail to free-associate and stick closely to a flattering image of who we are and where we are heading." But when we enter a state of "higher consciousness," however we define it, "the mind moves beyond its particular self-interests and cravings. We start to think of other people in a more imaginative way."

When we rise from lower to higher consciousness, we find it much harder to think of our fellow human beings as enemies. "Rather than criticize and attack, we are free to imagine that their behavior is driven by pressures derived from their own more primitive minds, which they are generally in no position to tell us about." The more time we spend in our higher consciousness, the more we "develop the ability to explain others’ actions by their distress, rather than simply in terms of how it affects us. We perceive that the appropriate response to humanity is not fear, cynicism or aggression, but always — when we can manage it — love." When our consciousness reaches the proper altitude, "the world reveals itself as quite different: a place of suffering and misguided effort, full of people striving to be heard and lashing out against others, but also a place of tenderness and longing, beauty and touching vulnerability. The fitting response is universal sympathy and kindness."

This may all come across as a bit new-age, sounding "maddeningly vague, wishy washy, touchy-feely – and, for want of a better word, annoying." But the concept of higher consciousness is variously interpreted not just across cultural and religious traditions but in scientific research as well, where we find a sharp distinction drawn between the neocortex, "the seat of imagination, empathy and impartial judgement," and the "reptilian mind" below. This suggests that we'd benefit from understanding states of higher consciousness as fully as we can, as well as trying to "make the most of them when they arise, and harvest their insights for the time when we require them most" — that is to say, the rest of our ordinary lives, especially their most stressful, trying moments. The instinctive, unimaginative defensiveness of the lower consciousness does have strengths of its own, but we can't take advantage of them unless we learn to put it in its place.

Related Content:

Meditation for Beginners: Buddhist Monks & Teachers Explain the Basics

How Meditation Can Change Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Buddhist Practice

David Lynch Explains How Meditation Boosts Our Creativity (Plus Free Resources to Help You Start Meditating)

The Neuronal Basis of Consciousness Course: A Free Online Course from Caltech

The Unexpected Ways Eastern Philosophy Can Make Us Wiser, More Compassionate & Better Able to Appreciate Our Lives

Medieval Monks Complained About Constant Distractions: Learn How They Worked to Overcome Them

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Seven Road-Tested Habits of Effective Artists

Fifteen years ago, a young construction worker named Andrew Price went in search of free 3d software to help him achieve his goal of rendering a 3D car.

He stumbled onto Blender, a just-the-ticket open source software that helps users with every aspect of 3D creation—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking.

Price describes his early learning style as "playing it by ear,” sampling tutorials, some of which he couldn’t be bothered to complete.




Desire for freelance gigs led him to forge a new identity, that of a Blender Guru, whose tutorials, podcasts, and articles would help other new users get the hang of the software.

But it wasn’t declaring himself an expert that ultimately improved his artistic skills. It was holding his own feet over the fire by placing a bet with his younger cousin, who stood to gain $1000 if Price failed to rack up 1,000 “likes” by posting 2D drawings to ArtStation within a 6-month period.

(If he succeeded—which he did, 3 days before his self-imposed deadline—his cousin owed him nothing. Loss aversion proved to be a more powerful motivator than any carrot on a stick…)

In order to snag the requisite likes, Price found that he needed to revise some habits and commit to a more robust daily practice, a journey he detailed in a presentation at the 2016 Blender Conference.

Price confesses that the challenge taught him much about drawing and painting, but even more about having an effective artistic practice. His seven rules apply to any number of creative forms:

 

Andrew Price’s Rules for an Effective Artist Practice:

  1. Practice Daily

A number of prolific artists have subscribed to this belief over the years, including novelist (and mother!) JK Rowling, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, autobiographical performer Mike Birbligia, and memoirist David Sedaris.

If you feel too fried to uphold your end of the bargain, pretend to go easy on yourself with a little trick Price picked up from music producer Rick Rubin: Do the absolute minimum. You’ll likely find that performing the minimum positions you to do much more than that. Your resistance is not so much to the doing as it is to the embarking.

  1. Quantity over Perfectionism Masquerading as Quality

This harkens back to Rule Number One. Who are we to say which of our works will be judged worthy. Just keep putting it out there—remember it’s all practice, and law of averages favors those whose output is, like Picasso’s, prodigious. Don’t stand in the way of progress by splitting a single work’s endless hairs.

  1. Steal Without Ripping Off

Immerse yourself in the creative brilliance of those you admire. Then profit off your own improved efforts, a practice advocated by the likes of musician David Bowie, computer visionary Steve Jobs, and artist/social commentator Banksy.

  1. Educate Yourself

As a stand-alone, that old chestnut about practice making perfect is not sufficient to the task. Whether you seek out online tutorials, as Price did, enroll in a class, or designate a mentor, a conscientious commitment to study your craft will help you to better master it.

  1. Give yourself a break

Banging your head against the wall is not good for your brain. Price celebrates author Stephen King’s practice of giving the first draft of a new novel six weeks to marinate. Your break may be shorter. Three days may be ample to juice you up creatively. Just make sure it’s in your calendar to get back to it.

  1. Seek Feedback

Filmmaker Taika Waititirapper Kanye Westand the big gorillas at Pixar are not threatened by others' opinions. Seek them out. You may learn something.

  1. Create What You Want To

Passion projects are the key to creative longevity and pleasurable process. Don’t cater to a fickle public, or the shifting sands of fashion. Pursue the sorts of things that interest you.

Implicit in Price’s seven commandments is the notion that something may have to budge—your nightly cocktails, the number of hours spent on social media, that extra half hour in bed after the alarm goes off... Don’t neglect your familial or civic obligations, but neither should you shortchange your art. Life’s too short.

Read the transcript of Andrew Price's Blender Conference presentation here.

Related Content:

The Daily Habits of Famous Writers: Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami, Stephen King & More

The Daily Habits of Highly Productive Philosophers: Nietzsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant

How to Read Many More Books in a Year: Watch a Short Documentary Featuring Some of the World’s Most Beautiful Bookstores

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

« Go BackMore in this category... »
Quantcast