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Keith Haring on Our Resistance to Change, the Risks of Certainty, and the Root of Creativity – The Marginalian

Keith Haring on Our Resistance to Change, the Dangers of Certainty, and the Root of Creativity

“It’s virtually banal to say so but it must be confused frequently: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis,” Henry Miller wrote as he contemplated humanity’s future. And but it does must be confused frequently, as a result of coursing by way of us is the elemental paradox of our humanity: our eager for permanence amid a universe ruled by entropy — the nice supply of our existential restlessness and our artistic fury, to which all of our sorrow and all of our artwork could be traced.

The oracular Octavia Butler captured this in her reckoning with the which means of God: “the one lasting fact is Change.” The remainder of nature is always testifying to this inconstancy. And but with each fiber of our being, we resist its basic actuality — although our very fibers, each cell composing us, have been changed since we first got here into being. As life lives itself by way of us, our our bodies change; the bodily locations and social spheres we inhabit change; if we’re alive sufficient and brave sufficient, our opinions and concepts about life change. And but we cling to the comforting phantasm that we stay, in some unmappable area of being, essentially ourselves — our immutable selves.

Artwork by Keith Haring

Keith Haring (Might 4, 1958–February 16, 1990) was solely twenty and already colliding along with his personal impermanence when he turned his soulful mind to those perennial paradoxes in Keith Haring Journals (public library) — the posthumous gem of a ebook that gave us his largehearted knowledge on creativity, empathy, and what makes us who we’re.

Two millennia after the ship of Theseus and a era earlier than neuroscience started illuminating the dazzling realities of various minds, Haring marvels at our techniques for bridling the essential effervescence of being:

The bodily actuality of the world as we all know it’s movement. Movement itself = motion. Change. If there’s any repetition it’s not similar repetition as a result of (at the least) time has handed and due to this fact there is a component of change.

No two human beings ever expertise two sensations, experiences, emotions, or ideas identically. All the things adjustments, the whole lot is at all times totally different. All of those variables merging, interacting, destroying one another, constructing new types, concepts, “realities,” imply that the human expertise is one among fixed change and, as we label it, “development” [and yet] most dwelling human beings construct their lives across the perception that these variations, adjustments, don’t exist. They select to disregard this stuff and try to program or management their very own existence. They make schedules, long-term commitments, arrange a system of time and turn out to be managed by their system of controls.

Keith Haring at work. Illustration by Josh Cochran from Drawing on Partitions: A Story of Keith Haring by Matthew Burgess

A century and a half after Emerson lamented that “folks want to be settled [but] solely so far as they’re unsettled is there any hope for them,” Haring considers the underlying unease that leads us to those coping mechanisms, these synthetic hedges towards this most pure manifestation of nature:

Individuals don’t wish to know that they modify.

Except they really feel it’s an enchancment, after which they’re all for “change,” and can go to nice lengths to “make adjustments” or contrive conditions or pressure a change that’s unnatural… Some attitudes I see throughout me are:

Change is suitable so long as it’s controllable.

Change could be predicted.

Adjustments could be contrived and/or altered and/or deliberate.

A part of our willful blindness to vary within the grand scheme, Haring intimates, is our unease about change within the small scheme of the self — the multitudes we every comprise, discontinuous and contradictory, a flickering of emotional and psychological states that by no means nonetheless to a everlasting constellation throughout the sweep of time. He observes:

Often the underlying proven fact that change is actuality, that we’re always altering and always in troublesome conditions, totally different states of thoughts and really totally different realities is


or misunderstood

or misinterpreted

or confronted.

Most easily, folks know to some extent that they really feel totally different at totally different occasions or look totally different to themselves totally different days, however few folks actually attempt to expertise this or query it or actually examine its causes or its implications.

In a sentiment evocative of Iris Murdoch’s meditation on the attractive, maddening blind spots of our self-knowledge, he provides:

To be a sufferer of your personal data isn’t understanding what your data is and what its result’s.

To be a sufferer of change is to disregard its existence.

To be a sufferer of “dwelling by what you assume” is to disregard the probabilities of “one other option to dwell” or the potential for “being unsuitable about the best way it’s” or ignoring the potential for “not understanding what you assume.”

Pondering the reply is as harmful as not enthusiastic about the potential for no solutions.

Creativity, Haring suggests, is a type of candor, a type of constancy to actuality — a approach of responding to vary genuinely relatively than artificially:

Pure artwork exists solely on the extent of instantaneous response to pure life.


I’m thinking about making artwork to be skilled and explored by as many people as attainable with as many various particular person concepts in regards to the given piece with no last which means hooked up. The viewer creates the fact, the which means, the conception of the piece. I’m merely a intermediary attempting to convey concepts collectively.

Complement this fragment of the wholly wondrous Keith Haring Journals with the forgotten prodigy William James Sidis on the controversial science of change and reversibility, then revisit Haring on the love of life even within the face of loss of life.


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