by Scott Liss

“Artists are lazy people; lazy people become artists.”

Those are the words spoken to me by a friend of mine in the middle of a conversation about having a goal or dream and chasing it. More specifically, chasing the dream of becoming a successful (“success” being subjective) musician. We’ll get to his statement in a minute.

I don’t get life in 2011. Actually, I take that back…I do get it. There are large parts that are pretty miserable to the point that if a person can actually remove his or her head from the ass of said misery for a moment, they’ll have an easier time viewing the goings-on for what they are: a compounded brick of decades of ignorance piled on top of decades of social degradation. We’re living in a decadent American culture that has collectively lost awareness and the understanding of the difference between real and counterfeit elements. We mistake that which is counterfeit for that which is real and we celebrate that counterfeit. At this rate, life these days is an absurdist tragicomedy with a dismal ending. Just wait for it. But that’s another topic altogether.

There is way too much clutter nowadays. It’s everywhere. Too many minds are deluded, too much that was substantive is now diluted, and people want (and even expect!) major returns on their investment of very little work. This idea has been ingrained so thoroughly in so many minds for such a long time that it has helped to degrade the quality of everything in the world around us.

So, back to the “artists are lazy people” statement. In an effort to substantiate his comment, my friend suggested that artists, musicians in particular, seek to work in the arts because it’s a distraction from real life and a good way to avoid having to do any “real work” or having to own responsibility. To him I’ll say, respectfully, you’re a friend, but fuck your statement. Perhaps you speak generally from your own mindset…? Perhaps it is you who strives to avoid “real work” by taking up the arts…? As he knows firsthand, though, getting rich making music or being any kind of artist is next to impossible. Maybe pop stars created as commercial products are sitting fairly comfortably somewhere in NYC or LA, but they usually aren’t artists and what they’re peddling is not art. They are a prime example of the counterfeit being mistaken for the real. They are plastic. They are an image. They are a dime a dozen. They are created and sustained for the sole purpose of making money. The music industry as a whole is a mockery of the arts and everything the arts should stand for. Let’s not mistake this industry for the artists, however. There are artists with a genuine passion and desire to create and share their art and make a living doing so; an honest living; an honest living staying true to what they believe in. There is a difference.

Art is subjective, of course, and very few industry investors care to risk money or effort on such a thing. The industry investors want their quick returns with the least amount of work put into it. They want to find the next copy of something already done and proven to sell. They want the next one created and packaged quickly. They want it made in the same manner following the same format as the previous one. They don’t care about stimulating minds, hearts, or souls with art. They don’t care about spreading ideas, stirring up philosophical discussions, or striving to improve awareness of the surrounding world. This industry very infrequently takes risks investing in art based on it being aesthetically sound, artistically honest, thought-provoking, and meaningful. The industry invests not in art, but in product. There is a difference. The industry today doesn’t care about the virtues of art because this country as a whole is not taught to care about these things. Society is kept watered-down and, with the occasional exception, generally passive.

“Artists are lazy people; lazy people become artists.”

People in general tend to become lazy once they fail to realize the value of hard work, focus, dedication, intellect, thought, and absolute truth. Laziness is not by any means an artistic trait. Real artists care about these things and that care helps to generate their art. Real artists strive to rise up and live in a world where substance matters and where ideas matter; where communicating substance and ideas matter.

I own a hammer and can hit a nail straight but I’m not a carpenter. Silly. Merely owning a MacBook and GarageBand does not make one a recording artist. Merely owning a digital camera and Photoshop does not make one a visual artist. Don’t misunderstand me here; my aim is not to belittle anyone who dedicates time to working with these tools. People are free to explore the depths of their creativity and some will develop into artists, if they aren’t already inherently artists. The arts are meant to be explored and shared. In some ways, these tools better help in spreading the virtues of the arts. My point, though, is that this is a double-edged sword. These same tools are responsible for the watering-down of the interest people should have for the arts. It makes the idea of an artist, of a songwriter, of a song, of a photographer, of a filmmaker so commonplace and boring that to get to art of substance one has to dig through so much garbage that by the time they find the substance they are burnt out and just want to put on American Idol or the Voice, maybe text-vote for their image of choice, and space out.

Double-edged sword, double-edged sword, double-edged sword.

Society, or perhaps social consciousness, shifts with the technology that it embraces. It is hard to keep up with the extremely rapid flow of information that our current technology offers. The mind’s attention span can’t seem to handle it. People are so easily distracted these days. There is a need to regain control over one’s attention. There is a need to return to things of substance, ideas of substance, matters of importance. There is a need to slow down and seek the beauty in intellect, in thought, in creativity, in learning. There is a need to realize the immense importance in the ability to focus one’s attention on something in order to learn and understand it beyond the surface. There is a need to peacefully, beautifully, share ideas with one another so that we may hope to return to elements of the real, away from the counterfeit.

Artists are not lazy. Artists are not seeking to avoid “real work” or responsibility. Anyone who truly cares about dedication, focus, thought, detail, and who immerses themselves in chasing a dream until they arrive is not lazy. Laziness lacks passion. Laziness is apathy. Laziness is decadence is mindlessness is death. Art, on the other hand, is life.

featured image art by Fredrick George Hinchliff 1894-1962