[Editor: This is a chapter from Australianism (1954) by John Fisher.]
The adventurous personality
When “rationality,” “reason” and “logic” are found to be very useful in accomplishing certain tasks within certain limits, they are over-extended in the impatient search for paradise, and so shackle the human spirit within the same limits.
Since irrationality applies broadly to that which is not known, irrational behaviour fills a very real and human need, and it is essential if spiritual virility is to be maintained.
This suggests the following classification of human activity:
The acquisition of wisdom, the only ultimate end to all activity, and primary cause of human progress. Individual fulfilment, “success” consists of a state of mind.
1. INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITY, THE REALM OF FREEDOM.
Arts strive after the immortal qualities of —
Adventure, Humor, Money, Sport, Toys, etc., Competition and all non-economic, non-scientific activities, such as hobbies.
Beauty, Truth and Goodness. Efficiency, co-operation and rationality need not apply here, because of the single, simple, non-physical goal, wisdom, as reflected in character and versatility; material progress and complication acceptable, though meaningless here.
Co-operation, Rationality and efficiency important here, Scientific activity should progressively reduce economic activity through simpler and more versatile processes, increasing indefinitely the independence of the individual.
2. SCIENTIFIC ACTIVITY, RESEARCH INTO —
Philosophy, Nuclear research, Astronomy, Biology, Botany, Interplantetary Exploration, etc.
Religion combines matter, energy, space, time, life, mind, etc., into an all-embracing unity, which should find expression in a sceptical, broad, and tolerant outlook on life.
3. ECONOMIC ACTIVITY, THE PROVISION OF
Individual and Community needs for civilised living, medical services, communications.
The realm of security and material progress.
People who wish to achieve a balanced and rational outlook in all matters, should cultivate the ability to think in terms of this simple grouping.
Human ignorance has degraded many activities that are of immense value to the individual in developing his personality.
Universities, for example, should impart the universe of human wisdom, rather than merely fit people to be competent attachments to the manipulating extravagances of capitalism. They should cultivate complete personalities that are capable of showing the community the best ends to pursue in its spiritual and material activities. A purely sedentary, domestic, and vocational mind-training tends to produce personalities incapable of shaping their environment to meet human needs, and devoid of the inner resources which inspire dynamic leadership.
In connection with the arts, the worship of words and technicalities is widely indulged, and frightens millions from the joys to be found in the cultivation of the imagination, which does not necessarily demonstrate itself in verbal or material encumbrances, but in an indefinable deepening of wisdom.
In allowing themselves to become machines, the great artists have left a priceless heritage, though it is seldom allowed to yield its full treasure. Furthermore, motivated largely by the need for turning out saleable novelties, many modern artists soil their spiritual integrity and seldom achieve the richness of vision of the older masters.
The development of individual human wisdom is the ultimate objective of all creative masterpieces, whose production is thus seen to be primarily a personal matter not depending necessarily on external conventions, such as “tradition,” “originality,” “public opinion” or “price.”
Pedants may, therefore, continue to promote harmless and amusing controversy in order to earn their bread, but if they wish to promote human betterment they should merely encourage a receptive and enquiring frame of mind throughout the whole community. Unceasing submission to one object or activity gradually deadens any person’s imagination, whereas a person with a deepening wisdom can return repeatedly from a diversified life to contemplation of the one work of art, and never be denied inspiration.
Modern “sculptors” merely label hardware, and leave the rest to publicity and human gullibility. The mania for buying and selling, effaces personality and stunts every faculty of most of the whirling puppets of “civilisation”, so that they are incapable not only of being inwardly delighted by an artistic arrangement, but in their stupidity revere anything selected by their master, “publicity.”
Any half-developed mind can devise intriguing melodies, stories, poems, or pictures, if it wishes, but an attitude of primitive awe exists towards the arts and crafts, as a result of the idolatrous practices of “civilisation.” Many modern folk are not only incapable of uttering an expressive, purposeful sound, but buy canned noises after having first had them impressed upon their minds from without.
The developing personality is not belittled by his environment, but brings a sympathetic mind to bear upon it, can transmit his experiences, and stimulate others.
Various smug and fashionable organisations exist for the promotion of the glorified capitalist theatre. A realist would no more gape at such idols than he would adorn a putrid corpse. While a virile culture will always boast a vigorous theatre, the latter alone may be meaningless. The primitive material condition of the humblest strata of civilised society reflects the true condition of the whole, while ostentatious bodily decoration betrays the spiritual inferiority of modern theatre gawkers.
The external discipline required to train a soldier to ferociously slaughter his fellow humans, is as rigorous as the self-discipline imposed by an actor who successfully portrays fierce hatred on the stage. The former is turned into a murdering savage, however, the latter into a truly civilised man.
The democratic purpose of the dramatic theatre should be to afford every individual the opportunity of bringing his primitive passions under the control of his reason, but unfortunately the mania for buying and selling everything over a counter deprives the vast majority of this opportunity, with the result that it remains at a primitive intellectual level.
The person who is truly free enjoys a deepening enlightenment throughout his whole life, while the myriad slaves of capitalist civilisation are deceived into defending their “freedom” by frequently murdering each other on remote battlefields. The truly civilised person has sufficient self control and understanding of himself and his environment to be able to raise himself from the rut of boredom when he feels he needs it, and he will do so in legitimate, non-oppressive adventure and creative activity, not in slaughtering or robbing his fellows.
The theatrical arts depict life as it should be lived by rich and dynamic personalities; the graphic arts are a foretaste of eternity, in trinket form, cast aside by the soaring human spirit.
The idolatries of capitalism desecrate all spiritual excellence. The words “civilised” and “cultured” are frequently used to denote the presence of bulk-handling methods in the moving of sewerage and slaves in modern cities. It is of supreme importance to recognise the expansion of the individual human mind as the sole and primary cause of progress, culture, and happiness, and the single goal of all activity.
John Fisher, Australianism, self-published: Harcourt Gardens (SA), , pages 6-9
gawker = someone who openly stares at something or someone
[Editor: Replaced a comma with a full stop after “outlook on life”.]