I didn't find it astoundingly inspiring or informative. However, it did reinforce some notions I already hold, and said some old stuff in some new ways.
And I did learn some new things. Had never heard of the Japanese word kamiwaza before. Godin writes:
Superman. Thor. Moses. Athena. George Gershwin. Thomas Edison -- they each represent part of what it is to be human; they are inside all of us. We know we are capable of this -- to be that strong or that cool or that generous. To persevere and connect and contribute the way our gods can -- that's why we invented them, why we revere them, and why they resonate with us. We have them inside, every day.
And yet we have no perfect word for expressing godlike abilities. We don't know how to talk about what it is to perform in a mythological way, to strip away the artifice and let the deity express itself.
And the Icarus Deception pushes us to avoid even thinking of it. it strikes deep into our psyche with a vivid warrning about the dangers of hubris.
We've built a world where the only option is hubris, where the future belongs to anyone willing to act like the gods of our myths. Better coin a word for it.
The Japanese call it kamiwaza.
If the gods are us, then do we dare be as the gods are?
The Japanese term kamiwaza, like most great words for which we have no equivalent, is difficult to translate. The shortest version is "godlike."
So when we strip away self-doubt and artifice, when we embrace initiative and art, we are left with kamiwaza. The purity of doing it properly but without self-consciousness. The runner who competes with kamiwaza is running with purity, running properly, running as the gods would run.
How dare we? How dare we presume to ignore Daedalus, to fly close to the sun, to apparently forego humility in a quest for something unattainable?
How can we not dare?
Hubris makes us godlike, and being godlike makes us human.
One of Godin's oft-repeated points is that what we should be after is art. Our life should be art. Our work should be art. An artist makes art because he or she is compelled by his or her inner artist to be artistic.
Art isn't made on an assembly line. It isn't something routine, mass-produced, generic.
Art springs from a daring openness to risk it all, to take chances, to say, do, feel, think, write, create, or make something unique, something that never before has been, and never again will be, because no one in the past, present, or future of the cosmos ever has been exactly like the artist, feeling what the artist feels, expressing what the artist expresses.
A barista making a coffee drink can be an artist. Or... an assembly line worker. It all depends. On the difference between art and non-art. Godin again:
Art isn't painting.
Art isn't something you hang on the wall.
Art is what we do when we're truly alive.
If you've already decided that you're not an artist, it's worth considering why you made that decision and what it might take to unmake it.
It you've announced that you have no talent (in anything!), then you're hiding.
Art might scare you.
Art might bust you.
But art is who we are and what we do and what we need.
An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it (all of it, the work, the process, the feedback from those we seek to connect with) personally.
Art isn't a result; it's a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul.
Reading Godin's book, I kept thinking about how all this relates to religion, spirituality, and mysticism. Short answer: who knows? We're talking art here, not science. There's no absolute right or wrong when it comes to The Meaning of It All.
Personally, which is how each of us looks upon life, I was reminded of how safe and stale these supposedly far-out aspects of human culture almost always are. Sure, there have been wild and crazy prophets, mystics, yogis, and such who broke all the rules in an artistic effort to embrace the unembraceable.
I'm thinking Kabir, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, Chuang Tzu... many others, both known and unknown.
But whenever religion, spirituality, and mysticism extend beyond the bounds of one person's artistic consciousness, almost invariably their art gets turned into something "corporate." Rulebound. Organized. Structured.
I liked these thoughts of Godin:
We are consumed with the humility of asking for directions, following the leader, and playing it safe. We have embraced the humility of not taking initiative and of designing a life where we can't possibly be blamed.
...We're so afraid of demonstrating hubris, so afraid of the shame of being told we flew too high, so paralyzed by the fear that we won't fit in, that we buy into the propaganda and don't do what we are capable of.
...The biggest cultural roller coaster of all is the one that pushes us to keep our heads down and comply, the one that is short-circuiting your art. This is the unspoken threat (the one we're reminded of from first grade) that you're just one misstep away from being fired, ostracized, thrown out, and exiled from the community. It's not true, but your lizard brain doesn't know that, any more than it knows that a roller coaster at Six Flags isn't going to kill you.
Best of all, being "god-like" in the kamiwaza sense doesn't require any sort of absolutist perfection. Or even the likelihood of success. It just means throwing yourself wholeheartedly into whatever activity you're engaged in.
As a vulnerable artist.
In every myth, there's tension. No god is omnipotent, no action is certain, no one exists in a universe with no pushback or risk.
The gods, when they act, take a risk. They are engaging with the universe, with one another, with the mortal population, and something might happen. And this just might not work out for them.
It's this vulnerability that makes it interesting. And of course, it's the vulnerability that makes each god human.
..."This might not work." This is the mantra of the artist.
...Kamiwaza doesn't mean all-powerful and perfect. If the gods were perfect, there would be no point to the myths we tell. We tell them precisely because the gods aren't perfect -- they are merely bold.
The industrialist (your boss, perhaps) demands that everything be proven, efficient, and risk free. The artist seeks none of these. The value of art is in your willingness to stare down the risk and to embrace the void of possible failure.