28 February 2007

Consumer-Critic or Creator-Contributor?

Our Western democratic societies are full of consumers and critics. In fact, at least in America, it’s patriotic to be a consumer -- in order to “stimulate the national economy.” In the same vein, our popular culture is full of critics, be they comedians, journalists, music or movie reviewers, social commentators, or talk show or late night TV hosts. It’s seldom acknowledged how difficult it is, in our 2nd law of thermodynamics-enslaved world, to create beauty or make a sustainable contribution to anything. Consequently, rather than celebrate the brave souls who desire to contribute -- who long to create, selfish people are eager to stand back and cast cynicism about their effort or critique their attempts at imitating the Creator. They themselves go through life unwilling to take the necessary risk to beat back the chaos -- to make a lasting contribution to this world or create something of beauty or usefulness. Our culture trains us to be consumers and critics. As unsatisfying as these roles are, most have too little vision or are too afraid to go against the pull -- the societal flow.

I am reminded of the famous quote by Teddy Roosevelt:
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, "Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

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