T for Tom

There Are So Many Things That Do Not Matter

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on July 9, 2012

There are so many things that don’t matter.  Just flat don’t make a difference.  Most of them start with the television, and like a tangled spider’s web bleed outward like shrapnel from grenade.  Just shards of things, a little bit of something left over to look at when the spirit is gone from the body.

We didn’t start this way, but it seems like we just can’t leave it long enough to see any other place as the end – on the screen.  A few years ago the screen became our major source of information, more information I’d say than any education could provide.  How to speak, what to wear, where to shop, what to say and how to attract the opposite sex, it’s all there in living Technicolor.  It’s so damned big now that it towers over all facets of business, all manners of technological and fiscal infrastructure, the epicenter, as it were.  An earthquake waiting to go off, a tsunami that’s all ready poured over the shores and is still making its way to the heart of the mainland in full strength; it may not be long before it’s there.

But the screen isn’t the only one after all.  For every other thing there is surely a group of people as equally devoted to it.  To sport and live competition, to politics and the fracas of nothing in particular, to film and television in long form, to charity and the work of the selfless – everyone has something that they think will make a difference.  Lives are spent in each of these arenas and more, and every time something significant happens, every time a record is broken on a football field, every time a landmark legislation is passed, each time a foundation raises a million dollars, there are groups of people standing by ready to shout “we have accomplished something great!”  But I’ve got news for you-

We haven’t done a damn thing.

Not a single damn bit of difference was made each time those acts came and went.  The history books didn’t stop to record this history, and no one will look back with revery.  Despite whatever it is you are doing and whatever it is you are in love with, it means nothing to the world.  The world, that is, of humanity.  Sure, the world cares about certain things – box offices, petroleum, space travel, Madonna and Lady GaGa, Ronaldo, and market fluctuation, but these things are pithy and soon to pass also.  You might direct the film of the year or capture on film the moment the public begins to riot in the streets, you may even pen the next great novel or set to canvas that near-Michaelangelan masterpiece.  But it won’t matter, no sir.  This train is too far gone, too fast on the tracks.  Not a damn thing matters anymore.

All around me I see people who are so convicted, so given to their craft that they believe, at least I think they do, that it will make a difference.  There is nothing less reputable and more despicable to me than film and television as art.  To think there was a time that such a scoundrel was I to believe myself in the efficacy of something so insignificant, so petty.  The notion of a respected director setting out to sketch ahead the world’s next great cinematic masterpiece, that film that might “raise awareness” or “cause a change” about some issue is ludicrous.  The most recent example can be found in the very heart of the two things I once loved – a fictional television show about television news…


Somewhere there are people behind this show that truly want it to echo the sentiments expressed by Dan Rather: “this show will make a difference, and expose some truths about television.”  And maybe it does expose something Americans, and the world, didn’t know – that television (like all business) is a dirty business, and the things we think we know are both not true and controlled by someone else.  There is no objectivity because every piece of information has a price.  I can’t blame anyone for hoping that it does however make a difference.  The fact that our number one source of information is a sham and a lie needs to be made not only relevant but common knowledge; maybe then we’d go somewhere else for our news.

But what I’m here to tell you is that it won’t make a difference.  People don’t want to change.

Everything is too sedentary to pick up now.  Everything is too concrete, too comfortable, too flaccid to ignite.  We once learned something and we’ve learned now to live without it.  Seven billion singular opinions are hard to change.

How do I know this?  Look around you.  Where are the great works of art?  Where are objects of creativity, if they exist at all?  If they exist, what is said of them?  Usually the worst.  No one with an ounce of freedom in them is anything but spat upon as an absurdist, an outlier, an eyesore to everything that “we” stand for.  No one even knows who “we” is, but they continue to fight for it.  Nora Ephron in her journal said once that America has a way of shutting out new ideas and making those ideas that are not American seem evil.  I have to believe she’s right.  It seems everyone subscribes to a way of living before inspecting it for truth – where are the questions anymore?

There are works of art still being created, good things still being made.  Once in the world there were things that inspired change, no, demanded change.  The Mona Lisa, Macciavelli’s The Prince, Plato’s Symposium.  These things were too important, too valuable to be left disregarded and it could be said that their value took from the world what it needed, an absolute impact.  Nothing less than lasting for these great works of literature and art because anything less would be wrong.  There are museums filled with the presence of these good things, halls of riches lined with the knowledge of our forefathers and the ones that got us to here.  It seems as though these halls and these closets have become the resting place of good ideas..

That, by some twisted fate of illogic we have made so simple to own the knowledge of what is great, we no longer create greatness nor recognize it when it is nearby.

Maybe David Foster Wallace left us with his denouement The Pale King to elucidate this very phenomenon eroding away at the heartland of this country, right before killing himself.  Maybe Chuck Klosterman is on to something with Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and short articles are the only way to our distracted hearts.  Maybe Cormac McCarthy isn’t just entertaining us on a way to a good dime for his self, and maybe he’s actually saying in The Road that our own soul is all we have left?  But who’s to know.  These works will never reach a large enough audience, or the right audience, or any audience, to leave a lasting impact.  Sure, there will be those devoted few who write the chapters of the history books covering the modern works of literature where these authors will rest, but that is nothing.  That is fallacy.  That is false.  There will always be those who, with just enough knowledge of the supposed “great works”, will continue to decry and befoul these new artists as something short of the mark.  That by their new and modern ways they will never be Shakespeare or Swift or Hemingway or Faulkner or Proust or Cervantes.

“There will never be another classic.”  I get this idea every time I see the art that is being made around me.  So much of it is worthless, if not all of it.  It’s no wonder then why no very little change is being made anywhere.  People don’t want it, and when they see it they don’t believe it.  And this is what I mean by the end.  This is what I mean by rendering it all useless.  There are just too many people in this world that don’t care to make a difference.  Factories will roll onward with minimum wage salaries, diseases will continue to spread, nature will continue to erode.  There is nothing left for us, there is nothing to fight for.  The game has been played, and television won.

All we have left is to watch the end come on.  In between commercials, of course.  Those commercials so carefully crafted by someone using their creative minds to make money.

Out there somewhere – YOU – are you out there?  You, the creative ones.  Do you exist?  Are you making something?  Have you sold an inch of your life to make a dollar for art?  Are you creating?  What is it that makes us burn?  Why do we continue to torture ourselves?  You know we do.  There is nothing pleasurable about creating.  It’s goddamn work, and no one thanks us when it’s over, for all the reasons I’ve already outlined.

Why then?

What pushes you forward each day?  Why do we come to the empty canvas, the empty pages, the unwritten songs, to keep trying?  Too much money is made on most things for most things to be considered true and endemic.  Journalism is the most blaring example, maybe because I was it and I hate it now for what it is – just a business.  Everywhere there are little reporters with their little notepads out there to grab a good story.  Do you know what happens to most good stories? Nothing.  They never make air because it would anger the wrong people.  If you don’t think that’s true, it happened to me while I was working in market #143 (only 40,000 viewers total).  So their money dictates their work.

But nothing dictates your work, you artists and photographers and writers of novels in towns all over this world.  Don’t let the words confuse you – there are only a few of you.  We exist in small numbers and make only a small ripple in the pond.  Most times no ripple at all.  But we continue like idiots.  I’m not sure why.

For myself it is for the chance of making that difference.  That by seeing this condition of the world I have to do something to change it.  It’s a fucking trifle of an existence, really.  To believe that I might be the only one to really see, really watch unfold before me like a vaudeville the dancing legs of the dead shake up a dust storm of bugs and rocks and sand and trash and debris, to think that these words will cause one person to stand up and swat it down.  That one person might listen and make a change.  It’s a waste really.

The only ones who will make that change are already doing it.  You know who you are, and I envy you for trying.  You’re probably doing better than me, and having more fun.  Because maybe out there you’ve learned something that I can’t seem to come to grips with – in the end, maybe we should just create art for ourselves.  Maybe if I can live a life trying to do something beautiful I can rest contentedly in my grave.  And looking forward to looking back means there would be no problem now, none of this filth.  You wouldn’t be reading this if I could believe that I would be okay with just merely trying.

But can I agree with giving up?  That neither can I understand.  And there in itself lies the struggle – believing at once that something can be done about what cannot be changed.

What a goddamned awful existence.

I can see now why so many people have hopped onto that train, why there are now seven billion minds working to nail the hammer down onto the coffin.  It hurts too much to recognize the futility of it all.  It is easier to believe in something insignificant as film, or sports, or magazines, or politics, fashion, charitable foundations, war, peace, religion, top 40 hits, shopping malls.  These things exist because they distract us from the things that matter.  The things that matter suck.  The things that matter remind us how terrible we really are.

After all, Plato lived on this earth, the same as Locke, the same as Nietzsche, as Heidegger, Miller, Sade, Donatello, Picasso, and Mozart.  They all walked this earth before us, and we say they made a difference.  But did they really?  We are still here, after all, in this moment.  This moment of such profundity that in fact there is nothing left to learn.  We are here.  They were before us, and still we are here.

Who will get us out?

There are so many things that do not matter.  Somewhere is the one thing that will get us out.   I pray that someone finds it.  In their heart, in the world, wherever-

Someone needs to find that fucking thing and get us out of here alive.


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