They’re drilling the road in front of my favourite café, so I’m typing this out to about a hundred decibels of ‘background sound’. There is a manager here, often on a pink laptop running accounts, who sometimes takes a break to handmake a customer’s order. She has red lipstick on this morning, and gets more beautiful each time I see her.
Every time I step onto the café’s front decking, and she peers at me over the espresso machine and smiles, I feel a skip in my heart. They also serve the best coffee in town; play, when the construction’s not around, the best jazz. They put luxury handsoap in the bathrooms. The best of everything.
One of the roles of the lover on this earth is to rekindle the imagination of your fellow brothers and sisters. To become, in a sense, more beautiful, each time an acquaintance sees you.
If you cannot first move imaginations; you will never move anything else.
And yet… do you too-frequently find our modern world un-beautiful? Does your commute lead you through a holocaust of 50’s architecture? Do you often find your friends, your colleagues, the generation that comes behind you… dull?
Someone has to breathe this back to life.
Creating culture is one of the themes Zan and I have explored on our podcast series over the past few years.
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Last week, in the Amorati, a question:
‘In this group we are ‘culture creators’, right? But is anyone in here doing that?
‘I feel like I’m a creating-culture type, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how. How do we create culture—especially as an Amorati?
‘Is it like a lifestyle of women, and we create our own Casa Amorata around it? What does it mean to ‘create culture’—and what kind of person creates culture?
‘I guess I’m trying to define what this is, and get real clarity on this vs. it just being an intuitive knowing that this is who I am, or who we are. How are you men doing this in your lives?’
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These are really important questions, thank you.
I sense it requires a high level to create culture these days, and not many people do it. Though in the past people had to: if you were not going to play the piano in the local tavern, or tell stories around the fire, who would?
If we don’t get some REAL encouragement and direction today, the norm is to consume culture from the outside, to buy beauty, to passively receive things… and, other than money (and often, not even that), to put nothing back in the cultural pot.
To create culture requires energy, imagination, a fuck-it attitude to making stuff, a desire—even through you’re broken and not-as-good-as-the-pros and never received classical training from your parents, yada yada—a desire to just do it anyway. Because the alternative is a death slow and numbing.
Any time I write one of these articles, and I decide to give it two or three more passes at the edit, to make it a little more beautiful than the regular perfunctory newsletter, that’s a bit of culture. Any time I string you together what’s of consequence to my heart, instead of blasting you with countdown spam (though don’t worry, those are coming), I’m doing something to alter the course of things. People approach me at conferences, telling me they remembered a piece from five or six years ago—something offhand I wrote and long forgot—which, they say, in no small way changed their life.
Any time I host a Salón where there otherwise wouldn’t be one; when we host an Amorati Conference where, without it, something like the Amorati would not exist: that’s creating culture. There must also be over a dozen music albums produced by Amorati now; art exhibitions; several novels; a couple of feature-length films, too.
Wherever your heart is in it, creating culture is beauty.
When I see one of the young women around me choose to put her feelings into a song (rather than flick through endless videos on the phone to try and forget her pain), and I watch her perfect her song over the following weeks, and she puts together a grass-roots video with zero budget and a ‘friend with a camera’, that fills me with some very incredible feelings and makes me happy to be alive.
My sense is that, especially over the past twenty-to-thirty years, corporations have come in, bought out our culture, sanitised it, and sold it back to us as a form of medication. At the same time, our world’s most ‘developed countries’ suffer high forms of alienation, suicide, drug-related deaths, etc. People seek communion, participation, ways of getting out of their heads, healing, and into their bodies; we seek forms of spiritual ecstasy, and all this is available in the act of creating culture—in creativity, the arts, performance. In perfecting your little Sunday newsletter, your next tweet, and reading it to an audience.
Many people today live in cities with zero sense of belonging, without much to live for or look forward to. Where do you spend your weekends? And do you hit Monday morning with a sense of a ‘fresh chapter’ and a smile on your face—or did you spend your weekend binge-ing series and eating take-out on the couch, mayonnaise running down your sweaty chin?
When someone creates something exceptional—hell, when someone around me creates something merely passable!—I feel like I actually belong to where I am again, like I actually want to climb down from the cloud, and exist. I don’t know how to say it… my spirit somehow fills up. Sometimes I get a boost from culture that fills me for days.
So despite that pneumatic drill driving at my eardrums, being in this café rejuvenates my heartbeat; puts a skip in my chest. Last week I fell in love with two new artists—a singer and a writer. They made me feel enlivened, like I turned an exciting new chapter and the world became fresh. Great art fills me even now, years or decades after I encountered it. An affair can be art. And they’ve changed my life in radical ways.
You know what I mean? Like, was there an album or movie or live performance that you saw once, and it still makes you glad you’re alive even today? Perhaps your very identity, your generation, feels defined by a movement or a band.
I remember standing at the pier, and stepping into a fishing boat under the pitch black sky, or bouncing on the back of a pick-up truck with friends, slashing through the jungle to find the ‘no moon’ rave; we were in Colombia when it was still considered dangerous—when the girls were receptive, and we partied in ways that’d make Scarface blush. Years later, I would be in the room the moment a new generation of spiritual practices evolved: we developed things together, tomorrow’s leaders were yesterday’s close friends. I was a part of all that. I was there—in a way Jack Kerouac must have felt when hitching America with Neal Cassidy and the beatniks. I was there when culture, when it happened and when it was born. And I wish I was there for it more.
It gets the blood pumping, to simply be in the room when culture is created. Expression of the soul is evolution itself; it gives a story to tell.
But this doesn’t have to be about social scenes or art. Maybe you had a friend who passed the spirit onto you. Maybe you felt it out in nature, or within a game. Or, instead of chowing down another miserable Chipotle, you ate Mexican prepared by some tía who couldn’t speak English, whose tienda didn’t even have a sign, but whose salsa and frijoles blew out your senses and sent your spirit spinning all the way to the Oaxaca coast.
Without the beauty of women, of art, of those who create culture… like, if we abided in some artless universe of men, I probably would have already curled up and died.
More and more, the world is pieced together as a system that reduces citizens to consumers. Cities become vibeless. The same chain stores dominate all the different high streets; we’re starved of character, personality, difference. Nothing is remarkable. Only outliers put smiles on my face.
So, to give your life to create things that other people love… for me, that’s a high aim; our great human need. When I hang around creative friends who have passions to share and express, our conversations are insane—you might say our conversations are culture. I host a ‘writer’s corner’ at my house; we meet for ‘Thumos Tuesday’ at a local restaurant, and we, no kidding, transform each other—we influence each other and our worldviews greatly—every time we meet. This is having friends of passion! But when I hang around those who hobble from consumption to consumption (usually complaining that nothing’s ever good enough), it’s like I’m swamped by the living dead. I want friends, lovers, with animation, with spirit; self-expression.
So, as a ‘romance artist’—to skip all the purpose stuff and answer your question directly—the fact that I place such huge emphasis on creation, expression, inspiration… has my lover want to belong more to this earth. It stops her alienation, gives her hope. My passion carries us. If love is curiosity, this is what lines my curiosity. Maybe it’s in a poem I wrote and read to her; maybe it’s in the music videos we share with each other watching youtube in the park. Maybe it’s when I catch her singing in the shower, and she clams up, all embarrased, and I coax her, gently, to continue to sing, and her shyness has her melody reverberate all the more. This, clearly, is more than seducing someone for money; to try and get them into bed. To ‘create culture’ is to give others a little more to take into their lives; a consolation, re-enchantment. Hope.
So, yeah… anyone can create culture. Kids way younger than you that haven’t had the life stamped out of them yet, swapping NFTs and other things that make no sense at all. The old lady in the local park feeding the pigeons, dressed in her witches’ robe. Maybe you opened a pizza shop, but you put 20% more love into every aspect of your pizza shop than any of the local competition. You fly burrata in on a private jet from Italy; or source it from a California milkmaid who makes the whole damn thing by the palm of her sun-speckled hand. And all of a sudden, the locals are excited once more for their dinner.
I could go on, but I sense you get the picture.
The war of our times, at least from my vantage point, is to keep our grass-roots spirit alive, to party in non-designated zones, to nurture the imagination of the people, so that our grandkids don’t trade their faces for surgical procedures that make them look like cat filters; so that they don’t grow up social credit zombies in a singular, plastic dystopia.
May we remain hairy. May we keep our dreamlives in tact.
This is what it means, despite the roadworks, to ‘create culture’; to breathe, to feel your heart skip, to seduce.
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Since you dared read this far…
What moods, vibes, themes, memories, rituals… would you like to create for the people that you love?
What has been so beautiful to you throughout your life… that you feel a necessity to pass it on?
That’s where this starts.
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Would you like a more powerful, more permeating influence over all the people in your life?
Click the image below and check out Legacy: the Ars Amorata Leadership Programme, which is accepting applications now.
Over two years, you will get my guidance—and be part of a committed band of men—as you create culture through your work, build a thriving sense of local community, enliven your relationships, and find, within it all, an abiding sense of peace.
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