The Plato’s Cave Of Identity

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It is so easy for one to become trapped and stand too close to the picture. In this instance one becomes myopic to their greater surroundings. When I think of identity I think of a tangled red tape maze of labelling and a neglect or disconnection to a more meaningful unifying permanency.

An important question one must ask is, ‘Who Am I?’.

Do I define myself by my race, social class, nationality, politics, culture or subculture, my external looks, fashion style etc ?

Or do I transcend any of these superficial identities and connect more with my heart, mind and soul?

In a more universal context, identity has no currency or power. The matter and energy in the universe is bereft of any labels or boxed confinement. It is that and nothing else.

For example, when I refer to myself as an artist, I am already putting myself in a box by creating an identity. I would severely limit and sell myself short if I were to solely think of myself as an artist. With my paintings, I strive to transcend identity. The inspiration for my paintings derives from what I like to refer to as ‘the eternal source’. By this I mean an eternal spirit or consciousness, which is permanent and will outlive me. I find it a challenging task to explain this in words, hence why I create the paintings I create. Through my paintings, I project and get closer to this eternal source much more than I would through words.

I believe focusing on identity creates a great deal of unnecessary anxiety, stress and friction. We become like spread-out and jagged fragments of broken glass; sterile and running on empty.  We become our own worst enemies.

When we drop identity, the concept of something such as likes and dislikes melts away.  We become more in tune, connected and empathic to our greater surroundings. We become more, dare I say, enlightened.

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

Image source: Pixabay

What Makes A Country Poor Is Her Wealth

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‘What makes a country poor is her wealth’. Those are the words of a 16th century Spanish economist commenting on his homeland. One time many moons ago when I was having breakfast at a tourist café in southern Mexico, I overhead an American telling his friends, ‘Mexico is so rich in natural resources yet it is a poor country’. At the time I pondered over these words. Yet it was not until I reached Venezuela later on during my extensive trip of Latin America that those words began to have more weight with me.

Venezuela has one of the largest deposits of oil on the planet yet its history since it first gained independence from Spain has been rocky. As of today the country is in chaos with most of the population barely able to regularly access basic quotidian necessities. One story that famously did the rounds for some time was the one involving a shortage of toilet paper. Stories like these are inconceivable to outside spectators like myself. How could a country with such levels of natural wealth, fall so low? Venezuela is a breathtakingly beautiful country and I am fortunate to have some great and generous friends from this part of the world. In addition to its abundant natural resources, it has some of the most beautiful beaches on the continent (its entire coastline faces the Caribbean), rich and fertile land, pretty mountain towns and Spanish style colonial towns, a vast and diverse geographical topography etc – I could go on. But lets go back to those immortal words; ‘What makes a country poor is her wealth’. In 1973 and more than two decades before Hugo Chavez came to power, Venezuela experienced an unprecedented boom owing to a freak surge in the price of oil. The country’s oil revenues for that year alone were greater than all the previous years combined. Yet the former Venezuelan oil minister and co-founder of OPEC, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, refused to party denouncing oil as, ‘el excremento del diablo’ or ‘the devil’s excrement’. Furthermore he chillingly prophesized, ‘Ten years from now, twenty years from now oil will bring us ruin’.

With the exception of a small handful of nations, who had the foresight to diversify their economies away from natural resources, many natural resource rich nations are not as fortunate. Africa is loaded with natural resource rich nations that today still remain poor and underdeveloped. Angola and Nigeria’s vast oil and gas deposits have created more misery than prosperity for most of the population. Today Nigeria has one of the fasting growing economies in the world yet much of its future prosperity will depend less on oil and more on diversifying its economy and stamping out corruption. Norway and Qatar are two oil rich countries. Yet both countries also have a substantial sovereign wealth fund. This means that when the price of oil is depressed, they have a cushion to land on during the lean times.  Saudi Arabia, arguably the most oil rich country on the planet, for too long was overly reliant on its number one export yet in recent times it has followed in Norway and Qatar’s footsteps by establishing its own sovereign wealth fund to diversify away from the black stuff. Hopefully Venezuela, once it is finally able to free itself from the destructive Nicolas Maduro regime, will follow suit.

It is a blessing in disguise that the UK (barring the North sea offshore oil and gas deposits in Scotland) is not a natural resource rich country. This means that in order to maintain financial prosperity, it has to retain a dynamic and business friendly economy.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

Sources/Reading material:

‘The Devil’s Excrement’ by Jerry Useem (2003)

 

Image: Aljazeera.com

 

Fooled By Randomness

dice - luck

In one of my previous posts I talk about how hard work is more important than talent when it comes to achieving success. As much as I don’t want to believe it there is a kernel of truth to this. But is it the whole truth? What if it is the power of randomness that is the principle factor in all this? At least this is what the Lebanese-American writer and former financial trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes whose seminal books Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan expand on this idea.

One of the most interesting aspects of success, especially in creative fields, is that it often comes to people we least expect it to. It is not unusual to watch an unknown band live and think ‘what on earth is this crap’. Then several months later that same band is flying high in the charts and many people are fawning over them. On the other hand, you can see an unknown band live who you are totally blown away by and are convinced the band will go on to greater things but success sadly eludes them and they continue to drift into obscurity. These typical scenarios give a lot of weight to Taleb’s theory of randomness.

Even though, at least at a practical level, hard work seems to be the best way to increase one’s chances of getting lucky is that really where it’s all at? Again in the context of musicians, some singer/songwriters worked their butts off on the open-mic night circuit playing at everyplace they could get a gig and then slowly after years of toil and sweat, they were rewarded. The supremely successful singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran is a perfect example here. But he does not escape the laws of randomness. Many other singer/songwriters also break their backs for years trying to make it, but alas their time never comes.

On the other side of the scales one can look at the pre-fame story of Oasis. They’d barely been going for a year or two before they were discovered in 1993 by the head of Creation records, Alan McGee, at a gig in Glasgow. From that point on success came to the band almost overnight. It was as if their success and destiny were written in the stars. The Oasis story is a perfect one of randomness and demolishes the adage of ‘if one works hard one will be rewarded’. Whether one likes Oasis or not, one cannot deny the powerful magnetism the Gallagher brothers possessed; something that seemed God-given and effortless, and millions of people lapped it up.

Life is never linear. Our predictions regarding the life trajectory of others often collapse like a house of cards. Random events beyond our control destabilizes these paths. When we look at the following world events; the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash, 9/11, the recent Genoa bridge collapse etc; they are examples of events which weren’t anticipated and took people by surprise. Taleb calls them Black Swan events.

It is not uncommon to weave a narrative around these events and try to rationalise and justify them, but the truth is they were ruled by randomness and caught everyone off-guard.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

image: PIRO4D

 

Solutions Solutions Solutions

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There are many problems and challenges facing the world and no shortage of writers and journalists in the media who are only too willing to heighten our awareness of all these issues. What there is a shortage of though, are individuals finding solutions to all these issues.

Talk is cheap. Withering, junk-food grade criticism is even cheaper. I am forever bored of writing that amplifies the problems of the world without shedding at least a mere pinhole of light and solutions to these problems. This is one of the reasons why I am turned on by hearing and learning about new and emerging technologies, because more often than not they provide solutions to most of these problems. They also enable me to foresee a future that is not as dire as what is often projected in much of the media.

For example, a very real and pressing social issue in the UK is the underfunding of the National Health Service and the uncertain future it currently faces. This is a huge concern as private healthcare can be very expensive and not everyone can afford it. This is especially true across the pond in the USA, where healthcare is notoriously costly. The biggest solution I see to making healthcare cheaper, more abundant and available is the further development of new and emerging technologies. Many fear the rise of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. But the development of both these two technologies will bring unprecedented benefits in the race to making healthcare not only more affordable (or even almost free) but more advanced too. Imagine robotic surgeons much more advanced than human surgeons – they don’t get nervous or stressed, they can analyze the entire human body at the molecular level and perform surgeries with nano precision. Already robotic surgery devices exist yet the scope for further development is limitless. Nanotechnology will play a very important role in understanding the entire body at the celular level and will be revolutionary in enabling everyone to maintain optimum health at all times without any viruses and damaged cells occurring. And all this can be managed via a digital application or chip without intervention from a finite supply of human doctors. I could go on but it is solutions like these to a current and real crisis that give hope and enable one to re-evaluate their hard wired negative perceptions of a situation.

Worried about the rising costs of education? Virtual Reality will be a huge game changer. This will be an enormous boon in parts of the world where there is a limited supply of teachers. With VR you won’t even need to physically step into a bricks and mortar learning institution.

There are many parts of the world, which lack enough of the right type of land to grow crops. Vertical farming is one of the potential solutions especially at the aeroponic level where crops can be grown simply via the nutrients in the air. It is still a technology that is very much in its infancy yet would reduce global hunger levels dramatically once it gets to a stage where it is much more advanced.

These are just a few solutions. I am no engineer, scientist or inventor, but knowing that these are very real solutions with the capacity to eradicate many of the most pressing global problems fills me with hope and optimism for the future. It sure beats being constantly fed the broken-record narrative in much of the news about how awful things are and that they are only going to get worse.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Accepting Your Contradictions

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When I was younger, I tried very hard not to appear a hypocrite. I would look down upon those whom I perceived as blatantly hypocritical and unaware of their own contradictions. Yet no matter how much of a purist I tried to be, holes would always appear in some shape or form. The more I tried not to be a hypocrite, the more I began to feel the weight of life on my shoulders. In the process I felt my vitality and joie de vivre being sapped.

Some of the most inspirational icons in the world were full of contradictions. John Lennon is a great example. For much of his music career he promoted the ideas of peace, love and togetherness. He got his positive messages across to millions of people with great success, but his domestic life was at times anything but peaceful. It has been said that he could be volatile and even physically abusive. He spent very little time with his eldest son Julian (even though he wanted to mend his relationship with Julian before the time of his death). Yet does this diminish my opinion of John Lennon? Absolutely not. He was a hugely talented and authentic singer songwriter who openly acknowledged his flaws and contradictions, often in his songs such as Jealous Guy and Getting Better.

Accepting your contradictions is one of the most liberating and beautiful forms of surrender. The moment you do this, life becomes less heavy and sweeter.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

Image: susannp4

Who’s It By?

Picasso - Les_Demoiselles_d'Avignon

Often when looking at a work of art, the first question to pop into the viewer’s head isn’t, ‘What’s it called?’ or ‘What’s it about?’. Rather it is, ‘Who’s it by?’. The more discerning viewer may ask the first two questions, but most will ask the third. Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are some of the biggest names in modern and contemporary art. It is hard to find someone who has never heard of Picasso before. Yet how many could name the title of one of his many paintings?

Picasso is a brand in the same way that fashion giants Prada, Armani, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are brands. When one looks at a suit, most will invariably try to find out what brand or label it is over any investigations regarding it’s intrinsic qualities. It’s the same with other ubiquitous consumer products like Coca Cola. You can buy a cheaper supermarket cola, which may even contain the exact same ingredients, yet it will never have the same cachet as a ‘Coke’.

The following story encapsulates perfectly the power of ‘Who’s it By’. The artist Bansky recently tested this by submitting an original work of art for the 2018 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London under the fictitious name ‘Bryan S Gakmann’ (an anagram of ‘Banksy anagram’). It got rejected during the selection process. Nobody had heard of this Bryan S Gakmann chap. Yet when Banksy himself was asked to feature a work at the show by the organizers, he submitted the work rejected under his fake alias. After all, it was a ‘Banksy’ in the end.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

Talent Is Cheaper Than Table Salt

Table Salt

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

These are the words of the writer Stephen King. When I first read this quote several years ago, a part of me was outraged. My thoughts at the time were something along the lines of, ‘Talent is cheaper than table salt!?! Who does this man think he is!?! Talent is an asset goddammit!

After cooling down I re-read that quote in its entirety, beyond the first sentence…. ‘What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.’ After pondering over the last sentence of King’s quote I slowly developed one hell of a reality check. The quote demythologises the notion of how talent by itself is enough to succeed. For many years I thought talent was all that one needed. All my heroes were outrageously talented and unique human beings. Besides I couldn’t care less for lesser mediocre beings regardless of how hard they worked. I despised mediocrity.

Some complain that we live in a society where mediocrity is rewarded. And maybe they are right to complain? After all some of the biggest names in the world today are quite ordinary people and one could even come to the conclusion that they have very limited talents with nothing enlightening to say. That may be. But they are successful, because they work incredibly hard and know what makes the average individual on the street tick. They work tirelessly whilst also mirroring Joe and Joanna Blogs, giving them what they want.

 

By Nicholas Peart 

(c)All Rights Reserved