THE MENTOR/TEACHER CULT

We can think of nothing worse for poetry than the notion that obedience to a flawed personality can make, or inspire, a poet. The insidious nature of the Mentor/Teacher cult escapes detection for two obvious reasons:

Poets, artists and scholars need to teach, obviously, since this is pretty much the only way these types of creatures can make a living.

Second, poets and artists are invested in mentoring others in ways they themselves understand/write poetry/produce art/think about things, if only to create new audiences for their own work.

So when you are a student, remember: you are the hunted. You are prey.

You will, of course, have teachers who are incompetent, bored, have no philosophy, and couldn’t care less about you.

These may actually teach you something.

But the mentor? Beware.

The mentor, armed with their particular art-philosophy, and intent on the education of your soul? They will un-learn you. They will damage you and set you back, unless of course you wish to be a mere clone of them, teaching others similarly, in turn.

Most students know to avoid the teacher who is hostile to them (the student) because they have more talent than the teacher; and many students simply refuse to be mentored by an instructor’s personal bias. After all, the student usually has more than one teacher to choose from, and may already have some idea about what they want.

But this does not change the fact that mentor-relationships are common, and corrupt.

There is nothing wrong with the mentor or enthusiastic teacher, per se.

Mentors are a danger in poetry and the arts today because there is no verifiable excellence in the arts anymore. Crackpot-ism reigns and laziness has become the rule. Poets and artists are distracted by teaching and administrative duties, as well as the million trends of the whole trendy industry itself. The mentor is invariably a lazy crackpot with narrow, trendy views.

To understand the issue a little better, think of the student in a sport. As one gains competence through training in this area, anyone can witness the excellence gained in terms of verifiable quickness, speed, coordination, and so forth. Every coach can be a jerk. This does not change the fact that an aspiring player can either hit a 90 mile per hour fastball—or not.

In sport, excellence is publicly verifiable.

In the arts, today, it is not.

Does this fact make art more sophisticated and nuanced?

We should not assume so. Yet this assumption is nearly universal in the arts.

A moment’s thought will make it clear to anyone the dangerous ramifications of such an assumption.

Especially when we consider the wisdom of the Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, who named art as that which is concerned with measurement. We err when we think of measurement as a straitjacket, for no piece of music in the world is possible without it, no great painting, or poem, either.

But we can leave Greek philosophy and the idea that measurement is necessary for true art aside for the time being, and simply contemplate what it means to have lazy, crackpot mentor-ism (brainwashing) driving arts and arts education.

To stand out as a ‘mentor,’ one has to be narrow in one’s views, since without any verifiable excellence, excellence can only be perceived in terms of narrow trendiness—which opposes universally verifiable excellence as a matter of course.

Insane mixtures and inane combinations are the rule: the sensibility of the collage, in which whatever strikes one’s fancy, is thrown into the mixing pot, is the number one method, and the more clumsy and jarring the superimposition the better, in the art world today, since the more self-conscious the mixing is, the better, since a unity which seeks excellence as a unity is the ‘old way’ and the enemy.

A picture, which excels by uniting elements, demands excellence in three ways: 1. the parts, 2. the way the parts fit together, and 3. the final result. If the parts ‘stick out’ in a way that ruins the unified effect, this ruins the excellence; as does any one part not being excellent; as does any lack of excellence in the final result, even when every part is excellent. The collage, by its very nature, is an intentional violation of this formula. It is a formula itself, and is a formula itself as much as it subverts the higher order formula which we have just outlined.

Excellence and universality are intentionally subverted in the arts today, since virtually every critically praised painting or sculpture produced today falls under the category of collage.

Simple photography escapes, within the unified choice-frame of its eye, the collage, and therefore we have the largely unspoken irony that photography/video is now the chief art form in the art world, in the same way song lyrics today are carrying the old load which poetry once carried, and comic books, old pictorial art.

Clumsy parts clumsily fitted together—the collage—is the default method which is destroying art and poetry.

A public immediately recognizes excellence—and does so when it is a public, and when it is a public, in rare times in history, excellence flourishes in what are called “renaissance” periods.

But unfortunately a public can be split and fractured into various museum-going and academic and book-buying and politically indoctrinated pieces, trained to respect the fiat of decision-makers at the top of various mercantile, and faux-art credentialing, food chains.

The true mentor—the Socrates—comes along once every thousand years. The student is urged to reject both the mentor and the trend,  and to study history, ancient and modern—and to learn the difference between a trend and a truth.

There is much important work to be done, and the beautiful soul, guided by a kind of fanatical honesty which resists trends, should find a good library, and do that work alone.

 

 

 

 

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