Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Do Artists Retire?

Chicago, Illinois, USA

August 6, 2005
Reposted June 30, 2020

"Retire from what?" ... Sir Paul McCartney recreating Willie Nelson talking about (quote unquote) "this whole retiring thing"
This essy, Do Artists Retire?, is the companion piece to Do Seeds Doubt?.
It is also the second in the first trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Second First Impression
  2. Do Artists Retire?
  3. Presence Of Love
in that order.
The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Black Brick
  2. Wet Water
  3. On Saying Nothing
in that order.
The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Master Of Life
  2. Face To Face
  3. Love And Kindness
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Personal Piece
  2. Magnum Opus
  3. Walk A Way With Me
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Natural Expression
  2. Essential Question
  3. There Is No "The Answers"
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Sophisticated Palate
  2. Open To Everyone
  3. Portal
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Meetings With A Remarkable Man
  2. Being Directed By The Unanswered Question
  3. Out Here
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  2. What Goes On Internally
  3. Riding The Horse Revisited
in that order.
The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is the sequel to Anticipation: Accounting For An American Love Affair.

He was speaking as I was daydreaming about my recent retired annoucement from a twenty year career as a computer trainer for hire. Sensing that, he looked me dead in the eye and asked "Do artists retire?". Suddenly I was sitting bolt upright, wide awake, and paying attention.

A good answer is useful, and we crave answers. But once you get a good answer, that's all you got: a good answer.

A good question, on the other hand, is potent. Once you ask a good question, you get lots and lots and lots of answers.

Answers shut down. Questions keep on opening and opening and opening.

The focus was on Self expression when he asked the question "Do artists retire?" inside a conversation about work and retirement. In that context, what that question evokes is not merely a yes / no answer. Rather it calls for a complete rethinking of what work is and what its purpose is, what retirement is, and what art and Self Expression is. It also calls for looking at whether work is a fulfillment of Self expression and passion, or whether it is simply drudgery driven by survival. And if it's the latter, it's not simply that retirement from working that way sounds  like death. It's that working  that way is living death.

What "Do artists retire?" really questions is where work is Self expression and where it isn't. Actually it questions more than that. It questions when  work is Self expression and when it isn't. Furthermore it incites the possibility of work as  Self expression, and it calls for rethinking whatever it is I do for a living in the light of exactly that: is it what I do for a living?  or is it what I do to survive?

I don't expect to go out there looking for an avenue worthy of my Self expression. That's not what artists do. Being an artist in this sense of the word may or may not include the Pablo Picassos and the Andy Warhols and the Robert Rauschenbergs of the world although it probably does. Being an artist in this sense of the word, is creating a future then living into that future. When work converges with creating a future then living into that future, who would ever want to retire from living that way?

His question "Do artists retire?", while patently about artists, really distinguishes the possibility of work as Self expression. It also distinguishes the possibility of making a living as Self expression. And it calls for inventing that possibility. Making a living in the world I'm given, is one possibility. Making a living  into a future of my own invention as Self expression, is another possibility.

From the former, I may look forward to retiring. From the latter, I wouldn't want to.

I get that when he asks the question "Do artists retire?", he isn't talking about retirement either. He's distinguishing Self expression and who we really are, as the possibility of a vibrant, enthusiastic, exuberant, and financially viable life.

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