Inspired by Ai Weiwei’s manifesto for life and creativity, which I chanced upon this morning, I drafted this manifesto for living a radically imaginative life. (There’s some repetition below but some things bear repeating. Some things bear repeating. Some things bare repeating. Some bears repeat things. Bare things repeat some.):
Be the strange you wish to see in the world.
Make, that is, create, form, arrange, enact, and/or perform, a living.
Make more than you consume.
Make study, practice, and sharing your daily continuum.
Keep lighting the good light.
Stand your underground.
Remember: There is no absolute being, only resolute becoming.
Take the path of most resistance as often as you can.
Work outside of and against the state.
Say nay to the naysayers.
Do something every day for someone else.
Honestly face reality, which means acknowledging, properly addressing, etc., the good along with the bad, and everything in between, a lot if not all of which is always mutable.
Acknowledge, celebrate, and express gratitude for all the positive things that are happening for you, your family, friends, colleagues, etc.
Ask for help when you need it.
Daily do at least one thing you love, that brings you joy, that turns you on, etc.
Daily do at least one thing that brings you closer to a creative goal.
Daily do at least one thing that brings you closer to a vocational goal.
Eat healthily and heartily.
Exercise and exorcise.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Have I mentioned singing and dancing? Have I mentioned cooking? Have I mentioned reading? Have I mentioned taking a bath? Have I mentioned getting lost? Have I mentioned going wild? In any case, I’ve found these practices to be helpful through even the best of times; in fact, they help to prolong them. That said, the list above is not meant to be a substitute for any therapeutic practice, regimen, etc.
Be vulnerable and uninhibited. That is, endeavor to open yourself to the life-affirming possibilities of the radical imagination against death cult capitalism’s command for us to police, imprison, and kill our dreams, visions, etc., not to mention our lives and the lives of others, etc.
Do everything you can to free yourselves from convention, from received thinking in all its forms, moreover from the society of the spectacle, defined by Guy Debord as the “autocratic reign of the market economy,” and, following and fusing Foucault and Deleuze, call the society of surveillance, discipline, and control, which has seeped into what Briziarelli and Armano call the “ontological plane of the social being,” which is arguably far more concerning, sometimes even frightening.
Speak the unspeakable. Write the unwriteable.
Write compassionately, lovingly, and otherwise intelligently and empathetically from the imagined perspective or perspectives of the so-called other or others. This is arguably what all great writers are always doing, even when writing from their “own” perspective.
Feeling helpless? Ask for help. Help others. Do what you can do. Whatever you can do is enough. If you can’t do anything, do that. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up.
Fallow periods are sometimes necessary. Respect it, if that’s what it is. That is, do everything you can to plow and till the field even as you necessarily leave it unseeded. But how do you know if this, whatever it is, is such a period? Hard to say, but here are some things to remember as you figure it out or not: Art is food. That is, it’s absolutely necessary, not some decorative frill or gratuitous thrill. You’re a farmer. Get to work. Also, eat and eat well, lustily, and without apology. I’m still talking about art but do this with your other meals, too. Moreover, be honest. Be fearless. Go crazy. Disobey. Do something every day for someone else. This could be a meal. Express gratitude for what you have, even if it’s “only” for the vision of a future feast.
The programmed homogeneity of social media, which is just a node of corporate media’s manufactory of consent and dissent, makes it enormously difficult but not impossible to discover, re-engage, etc., worthy artists and other revolutionaries, doggedly working in the margins. So seek out and otherwise engage such people’s work as part of your daily creative practice. Regularly publicly share your findings as a way of building community, etc., because it in some way micropolitically circumvents the abovementioned homogeneity, conformity, and servility.
Champion and otherwise support marginalized artists, visionaries, revolutionaries, and radical networks of cooperatives, democratically self-managed enterprises, etc.
Rebel, refuse, repeat.
(Image: Leonora Carrington’s Quería ser Pájaro (I Wanted to Be a Bird), 1960)
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.