Great art and music, literature and a plethora of audio and visual media, philosophy and countless examples of inspired insight: these represent the best examples of human creativity, enriching the human experience and propelling the species forward. All are in some way driven by necessity, often by so called negative emotions – making do – fighting back – wrestling with neuroses – reacting to a reaching for the light or to express the overflow of febrile imagination. The necessity is to restore equanimity, to get through the day without falling to madness or despair. Ambition is the life-blood of creativity, after all.
Isn’t creativity expressed to the world the only true meaning we can actually aspire to share, to give value to our finite days on this planet, beyond the mere fact of being alive (but not for long) and thus by default meaningful to ourselves?
Healing the brain’s extremes, levelling out the peaks and troughs, is a natural shared goal and on the surface it may seem a good idea. Meditation – and medication – are prescribed as a practical way to take back control of the moment and calm the stormy seas of negative emotions like anger, passion, jealousy, envy, avarice, etc. How can this liberation from uncontrolled extremes and bipolar mania not be an entirely good, benign thing?
Mindfulness meditation is a great sell to calm the mob and flatten the peaks and troughs but the price is surely high; if not a death of art then making it pale fire? Nabokov saw suburban American plenty of the 50s as taking the edge off great artistry, mediocritising – mindfulness risks being another step in that suffering reduction, pale fire the pale fire.
Two elephants in the room:
Not everyone’s brain is exceptional enough to be of interest to strangers, so utopia must be either unfair or chase equality of outcome, penalty for brilliance to aggregate with compensation for less able brains. Communism of thoughts.
Mindfulness succeeds when it turns unconscious reaction into conscious realisation. By default it must either improve a suffering mind towards equanimity or smooth down the peaks of a euphoric one. Pale fire.
Proponents of mindfulness meditation see distraction as the enemy of everything but is it? He rightly points out that someone skilled with mindful meditation isn’t trying to be an enemy to creativity and is a positive boon to appreciating creative efforts in others – understanding, empathy, patience, concentration. Widespread it would certainly being people together, make populations closer etc. Creativity is the sum of influences expressed through the prism of a porous mind in a set of limbic circumstances (and their associations). More influences to which one’s mindful makes them less impressionistic and more instructive. This logic ends in creativity merging into engineering, impressionism becoming realism. This is society as science. Is that not, for some human beings, surrendering one of the most important, compelling human imperfections: creative inspiration? This logic ends in colourful chaos, merging into – at best virtuosity, at worst cacophony – impressionism becomes abstraction. Worse than the society as science, it becomes society as barbarism (even if not physically violent).
This point should be taken as illuminating as there’s a dichotomy often presented Art v Science. But the poles are Science and Barbarism or perhaps Science v Randomness. Science engineers. Randomness discovers; almost always nothing new. Art is a creation rather than a verb. Art can be created by Science and by Randomness. In reality human beings are a blend of the two but greater creativity is a notch closer to the Science pole than the Random, extent varying according to the Art, the Artist and the scatter of Randomness directly influencing.
Ignorance leads to barbarism. Education leads to science. Unmindful minds devolve towards the barbaric (or chaos). Mindful minds evolve towards the science (or orderly) paradigm. Society as a whole might be better served by Order than Chaos. The devil is in the detail and sociopolitical preferences of a society i.e. more libertarian accepts the self and everyone else as supporting actors, art matters cuz it affects me, my art matters therefore don’t 100% science and order. Let my merit win or lose. More socialist notes the self but everyone is an actor, art matters cuz it affects many, my art matters if it affects many, science 100% order to 100% of utilitarian happiness. Mindfulness is a socialism of life experience.
The mindful utopia is one of individual human beings taking one another as humans, all that nuance a given, never distilled into a symbol or cipher or passion. This could be a pleasant society but would it be an interesting one; would it not undermine the struggle and the fruits of that struggle by making an objectivity about all individual’s human hardware that can be coordinated by a benign AI perfect into what’s best for the world by whatever criteria. Does that not ultimately change the nature of being and reduce people to cogs in a vast machine, zombies living well but numb (or flatline or junkies to dope control).