(Is this thing on?)
Yesterday I recommended some online people who inspire me. Now it’s time for the flip side. Many of the YouTubers I enjoy watching are half my age. They live in fancy big-city apartments and drive luxury cars and maintain lifestyles beyond far beyond my means. On one hand, I find them inspiring; on the other hand, I am seething with envy that is probably not healthy.
Every bit of advice I’ve read on how to be happy includes a warning to not compare yourself with other people. This is advice I have a very hard time following. How do you not compare yourself to others? How do I not watch a 20-something driving a Tesla and not resent my entry-level Ford? How do I not let a video on home decorating depress me when I’m wondering how to make next month’s rent on my tiny apartment?
Way back when I was in my own early 20s, I wrote and recorded two songs that have since taken on a bitter irony. “I Hate My Apartment” and “I Wanna Be Rich” were written when I was certain better times were just around the corner. A combination of bad luck, poor timing, and bad decisions has held those better times at bay. Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly better off than millions—if not billions—of the world’s desperately poor and hungry people (and yes, I also wrote and recorded a song called “Hungry People,” but that one’s not online). Things, as they say, could be worse. But they could also be a lot better.
So please excuse this whiny blog post. My struggle is one I suspect I share with many people of modest means. It is also not entirely about money, though let’s face it: That’s a biggie. But even if all those talented young YouTubers were stripped of their high-price accessories, I would still be envious of their accomplishments. Ah, there’s the ticket! I may not be able to control what people pay me, but I can control what I do and how I do it. Focus on doing good work.
“Make good art.” – Neil Gaiman
And if anyone want to gift me a Tesla, that’d be cool too!
Yes, I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. And I do interact with them—probably more than I should—but I also spend a great deal of time ignoring much of what comes my way via those channels. There are better ways to spend my time online. Here are a few of them:
I’ve promoted the many online endeavors of John and Hank Green before, and I’m about to do it again. Hank’s latest YouTube project is Journey to the Microcosmos, a relaxing and informative look at the microscopic world around us. Hank is much mellower on this channel than his regular viewers may be used to, and he proves he can deliver even at a slower tempo. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbnbBWJtwsf0jLGUwX5Q3g
If someone had told me even two months ago that I would be listening to and recommending a podcast by a former megachurch pastor, I would not have believed them. Yet here I am plugging Rob Bell’s RobCast. Although his main focus is matters of religion, the pod casts a wide net (see what I did there?), and you won’t be bored! It’s not hard to see why Bell’s preaching attracted large crowds; he’s very good. https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/
Another religious podcast that has been bringing me much enjoyment comes from Peter Enns and Jared Byas. The Bible for Normal People takes up the many issues, problems, and controversies surrounding the Bible. Though many people claim the Bible takes center stage in their lives, too often they haven’t really given it the thought and in-depth reading it deserves. Enns and Byas tackle even the thorniest issues head-on, chatting with a varied company of scholars, writers, and bloggers, all the while keeping the tone accessible and entertaining. https://thebiblefornormalpeople.podbean.com/
While we’re on religious subjects, Austen Hartke approaches the Bible from a transgender perspective, which is refreshing and needed. The subtitle of his webpage is “Theology – Identity – Education,” and that pretty well sums it up. (I’ll be doing a lot of this business of approaching theology from different and sometimes surprising perspective in upcoming posts.) http://austenhartke.com/
“Life is an art. Make it your masterpiece.” This is the headline of Lavendaire, the website and YouTube channel by Aileen Xu. Some folks may find here a bit too New Agey, but I enjoy spending some time with her online. Creative Lifestyle Guru is perhaps an abused job title these days, but Lavendaire’s optimistic, helpful, and healthy advice is…well…optimistic, helpful and healthy! https://www.lavendaire.com/
For a religion class in college, I wrote a “Confessions” in the tradition of those by Augustine, Rousseau, and many others. In my Confessions, among other things, I discussed nagging doubts about my intended career as a musician. With so many big problems in the world, setting my sights on a life of music seemed frivolous.
These days, as I spend my days working in a church and devote much of my time outside of work to academic pursuits, I face similar doubts. With so many big problems in the world, is setting my sights on spirituality and books just another frivolous avoidance of my larger responsibilities?
Neil Gaiman is not just a fine author, he is a fine speaker as well, as his “Make Good Art” speech testifies (https://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012). In my journal, I sometimes like to include quotes I find inspiring. I was in the process of writing down Gaiman’s quote, when I thought to myself, “Isn’t that a little weak? Why ‘good art?’ Why not ‘GREAT art!’”
But then I thought of one of the great stumbling blocks for many an aspiring artist/writer/composer/etc.: Perfectionism. Making great art sounds intimidating; I’m not sure I can do it. What if what I create isn’t great? Maybe I just shouldn’t create at all.
Then I thought of another quote, this one from Andy Warhol: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
Just get it done. Anne Lamott says we should give ourselves permission to write shitty first drafts. Shitty I can do. Good I can do if I work at it. Great? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll let someone else decide. In the meantime, I have to make art. I have to just get it done.