a little help

My friend Eli used to (or maybe still does) have a great quote from Robert Anton Wilson on his Facebook page: “You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knit group of nearly omnipotent people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends.”

I don’t read Robert Anton Wilson, which means I’m basically one of those douchebags who mines the vast opus of a talented author for choice quotes for her tumblr, but I do like this line. The first time I read it, I thought it meant that you should act as if Actual Powerful People were your besties, which I suppose involves doing things like name-dropping Michelle Obama online in the hopes of an RT and constantly telling bouncers “I’m with the band.” But then I realized the idea isn’t to make the influential people your friends, it’s to see your friends as the ones with influence.

The key to this, obviously, is having really great friends, friends that are great not just in the way of normal friend-type support (shoulder-cries, spotting cash, destruction of incriminating evidence) but who are interesting people, people who are active producers of the things you like to make. I have a bundle of these types in my life: magazine writers and musicians and home cooks and dancers and poets. Hell, I’m blood-related to two incredibly talented artists. I love this because it enlivens every bit of my life, because I have the kind of friends who invite me over to make a spontaneous banana crepe cake or for a dinner of homemade pho or record a podcast with me or have matching articles with me online and help me edit my convocation speech. They make me want to pay attention to the finesse that goes into every crafted thing that I use and they are there to motivate me to make things.

I suspect that some people are hesitant to befriend others who are engaged in the same kind of creative labor that they do because of worries that petty envy will creep in. Which it might! But a little (not a lot) of jealousy can be healthy, a little jab to keep you on your game, as long as it doesn’t consume you. And then? Once you all keep contributing and weaving your works together, you can become a force majeure and take over the cultural world!

Or, okay, probably not. But many groups that produced awesome things–everyone from the Algonquin Round Table to the Monty Python Boys–are, in essence, just groups of friends doin’ their proverbial thang. You don’t have to shoot for greatness, even; just put stuff out there. As Garrison Keillor said of A Prairie Home Companion, “We only did it because we knew it would be fun to do. It was a dumb idea. I wish I knew how to be that dumb again.”

4 thoughts on “a little help

    1. blair Post author

      Totally. The crepe cake is from Smitten Kitchen (though for obvious reasons we omitted the walnuts) and the pho was kind of an amalgam whipped up my friend Kathy based mostly on this NYTimes piece (I think). Both reeeeeally good.


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