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Jun 19, 2012

Can We Accept Leisure?

"Secret Texts" by Tim Holmes;, book, bronze, silver, tar, oil; 18 x 21in.
If you could choose right now to start living the Good Life, would you? As a fervent believer in a world of extravagant abundance, I believe most of us could quit our jobs right now and spend the rest of our lives doing what makes us feel fulfilled. But most of us can think of reasons why we must keep making more money at nearly all costs. What if that idea itself were our slave-master? Would we rebel and run for freedom if we could? A new article about leisure asks just such poignant questions. The authors point out the dangers of a "neutral" state that allows those with the capital to manipulate everyone else to their own ends; where the wealthy move on from self-aggrandizement to outright cruelty as a mode of self-expression. Sound familiar? The blind pursuit of money makes such dangers almost inevitable. I worry that we've become bound to an unattainable (crazy) idea of mindless growth where leisure becomes nearly impossible.

There is another possibility! Basic Income is one of the most brilliant concepts of our time– that there is now enough material in the world for everyone to be given basic survival needs by the state, so that every person could spend their time applying their talents in whatever way they wish. This idea has been gaining ground, especially in Europe. But one surprising question arises: would we quit mandatory "work" even if we felt we could? Or are we somehow brainwashed that our personal value rests in machine-like production and that we don't deserve leisure?

As a successful early retiree, I struggle with this (joyfully!) One thing a life of constant work provides is an underlying sense of meaning ("I have to work or I would starve"). If that were removed we'd have to justify ourselves with new meaning! This is where I am, trying to legitimize myself outside of "work" (making money). I imagine new possibilities and make art but is that enough? Am I worth this leisure? This is the ultimate, most meaningful question.

I hope the developing world can avoid taking the path of the "first" world of endless consumption in place of a life of true pleasure. We in the west have always been slaves of the god of "economic growth" but I'm struggling to believe that I deserve a better life– one of meaning and beauty. Do you ?
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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.