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The Artistic Temperament, Turning off the TV, The Wisdom of Next Actions

Resource: Oscar Wilde on Art and Cultivating the Crucial Temperament of Receptivity


Art cannot be effectively approached mechanically as if it’s our job to dominate it or master it. Art has to be approached relationally and receptively. We have to submit to or cooperate with the creative process in a way that invites are to have its way with us.

The best kind of government for producing art is no government at all. Whether a democracy or a monarchy, all authority is bad and it undermines the creative spirit that makes art.

Individualism is the key to human flourishing.

The best way to make art and to learn from art is to set aside the ego, resist our desire to dominate it, and get into a receptive frame of mind.


On receptivity as the appropriate temperament

“The temperament to which Art appeals … is the temperament of receptivity. That is all. If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. He is to be the violin on which the master is to play. And the more completely he can suppress his own silly views, his own foolish prejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or should not be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question.”

On vision, not history, as the key to artistic imagination:

“An educated person’s ideas of Art are drawn naturally from what Art has been, whereas the new work of art is beautiful by being what Art has never been; and to measure it by the standard of the past is to measure it by a standard on the rejection of which its real perfection depends. A temperament capable of receiving, through an imaginative medium, and under imaginative conditions, new and beautiful impressions, is the only temperament that can appreciate a work of art.”

On the insufficiency of government to produce art:

“People sometimes inquire what form of government is most suitable for an artist to live under. To this question there is only one answer. The form of government that is most suitable to the artist is no government at all. Authority over him and his art is ridiculous. It has been stated that under despotisms artists have produced lovely work. This is not quite so. Artists have visited despots, not as subjects to be tyrannized over, but as wandering wonder-makers, as fascinating vagrant personalities, to be entertained and charmed and suffered to be at peace, and allowed to create. There is this to be said in favor of the despot, that he, being an individual, may have culture, while the mob, being a monster, has none. One who is an Emperor and King may stoop down to pick up a brush for a painter, but when the democracy stoops down it is merely to throw mud. And yet the democracy have not so far to stoop as the emperor. In fact, when they want to throw mud they have not to stoop at all. But there is no necessity to separate the monarch from the mob; all authority is equally bad.”

On individualism as the wellspring of art:

“Individualism does not come to man with any sickly cant about duty, which merely means doing what other people want because they want it; or any hideous cant about self-sacrifice, which is merely a survival of savage mutilation. In fact, it does not come to man with any claims upon him at all. It comes naturally and inevitably out of man. It is the point to which all development tends. It is the differentiation to which all organisms grow. It is the perfection that is inherent in every mode of life, and towards which every mode of life quickens. And so Individualism exercises no compulsion over man. On the contrary, it says to man that he should suffer no compulsion to be exercised over him. It does not try to force people to be good. It knows that people are good when they are let alone. Man will develop Individualism out of himself. Man is now so developing Individualism. To ask whether Individualism is practical is like asking whether Evolution is practical. Evolution is the law of life, and there is no evolution except towards Individualism. Where this tendency is not expressed, it is a case of artificially-arrested growth, or of disease, or of death.”

Resource: The Engine of Our Discontent


The same tv set that can bring knowledge can also breed artificial discontentment.

TV is a neutral tool, but the results it can bring you are self-destructive if used unconsciously. Ditto for the Internet.

Unless the TV and internet is making your life better, turn it off.


“Today, though, marketers have turned television into an instrument of dissatisfaction. The shows alienate many, because they bring an idealized, expensive world into the homes of people who increasingly can’t afford it. And the ads remind just about everyone that their lives are incomplete and unhappy–unless they buy what’s on offer. Worse, cable news is optimized to shock, frighten and divide the people who watch it. Social media can amplify all of these downward cycles. It’s TV times 1,000.”

“Every time TV and social media become significant time sinks in a household, pleasure goes up and happiness goes down. The solution is simple and difficult. We can turn it off. If it’s not getting you what you need or want, turn it off for a few hours.”

Resource: Getting Things of Done


The kind of compass to have is the one that guides you to your next action. When you know what you need to do next, and do it, you’re doing it right. Your long run is the product of your many short runs.

Don’t disregard mundane activity. Mastering the mundane is the key to achieving your long term goals.


“Wisdom consists not so much in knowing what to do in the ultimate as in knowing what to do next.” —Herbert Hoover

“The challenge is to marry high-level idealistic focus to the mundane activity of life. In the end they require the same thinking. ”

“An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.” —Sydney J. Harris

“I respect the man who knows distinctly what he wishes. The greater part of all mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They have undertaken to build a tower, and spend no more labor on the foundation than would be necessary to erect a hut.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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