The first time I heard someone refer to another person as the “genuine article” or the “real article”, I didn’t really get it, dear readers.
I thought all people were real. After all, we are all standing there visible to the world around us. Admittedly, I was probably 9 or 10 years old.
That cultural idiom is there for a reason though, because it’s easy to substitute in behaviour in order to gain something from other(s). And that is the challenge – genuine good will is a difficult thing to accomplish. Anyone can donate their things away and be perceived as generous, but if we stop to consider what’s going on behind the scenes, in the mind of the donating party, the only one who really knows if they are donating something with the intention of benevolence, kindness or from a place of friendliness is the gift giver.
Del Griffith’s Speech
Now I want to tie this in with an example. There is this great scene from the movie Planes, Trains, & Automobiles that perfectly encapsulates my point. It’s the one where John Candy gives the infamous John Hughes type speech – it is brilliant, emotional, and timeless in it’s delivery.
We could very easily read that scene from the perspective that Del Griffith is a moralistic character we should aspire to be like, especially after we know the twist of the film, and sit down for a second viewing. But consider this for a minute creative cuties, what if John Candy really was manipulating Steve Martin’s character into doing the right thing by using emotions to transform their relationship into one of interdependence? Maybe it was intentional maybe it wasn’t, but the guy is lonely and is seeking affirmation that his decisions are well founded and that his life has meaning.
Now this variation of the narrative is played to great effect in a parody scene that Family Guy did years later.
Empathy and Goodwill
Sometimes we enact a process of goodwill to develop our own moral compass – Investing personal meaning that it is important to do charitable works in order to feel good and to contribute to society proper. This of course is also not a guaranteed act of genuine good will, but it is on the right track towards selfless behaviour of a pure intent.
In business, gaining a reputation of goodwill is sometimes just as important to customers as the valuation of it’s goods and/or services. An intangible asset that contributes to the brand in a positive way. When we take this idea into the realm of the arts, and the salable component of art making, we can see how artists might craft their art to make themselves appear more vivacious, charitable, intelligent, rebellious, funny, dangerous or any combination of traits that help demonstrate the value and intent of the work. I’ve written about this before, but by viewing the artist as an individual comes the risk that we don’t like what that artist says and does, but we enjoy their work for personal reasons.
My theory is this, if you make art for the purpose of self development and pleasure FIRST, and then add in a layer of consciousness next, altruistic behaviour naturally evolves out of it.
In a very generalized way, the philosopher Aristotle probably said it best, your ethos or character is established through a number of factors – your level of goodwill, trustworthiness, authority on topic(s), similarity to others, and resonating communication abilities. One of the most powerful ways to demonstrate goodwill is through is through empathy. To relate to others by aligning with them demonstrates your understanding of them and it makes way for your message to be received in a strong light.
In the holiday season, it can be very easy to get lost in the state of affairs. Wanting to do good without understanding what it means to be good. When you make your art, live your life, share your purpose with the intent of empathy, no matter what your passion is, people are more likely to tune into your message, and you will connect with them in a positive way. This is important and essential in a world where many don’t relate to those around them.
But that is just a theory – my last wisdom based theory of the year in fact. Luckily, I’ve got one more post to share tomorrow.