George Carlin: The Virtue of Dissatisfaction

I found myself yesterday, in a bathroom not my own, catching up on my reading. In this case, George Carlin’s Braindroppings was the toilet-tank offering. My gentle hosts may have been having fond flashbacks to the venerable comedian’s “Hippy Dippy Weatherman” days when they bought this. Carlin’s intelligence and quirky perspective are all on display here, but I’m not sure Wendy and Bernie knew how vulgar, and how downright misanthropic, Carlin can be. It’s dominated by a deeply angry, even despairing world view that I can’t quite get with, though there are some brilliantly caustic lines. He’s discouraged, but he makes a sour sort of fun of it. There should be a warning label.

That’s not the thing, though. In his introduction to the book, Carlin cites a gorgeous piece of the philosophy of Martha Graham, the great goddess of dance. He counters his own seeming conviction of the uselessness of hope by sharing Graham’s insistence on the importance of individual expression. So, from a sometimes pungent source (and I don’t mean Wendy and Bernie’s bathroom) here is today’s beautiful thing:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open….

No artist is pleased….[There is no] satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

Here’s to openness. Here’s to living. (And to George and Martha — not the Washingtons — my odd coupling for today.)

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