“If you’re going to do it over-do it, that’s how you know you’re alive” -Ani Difranco
So we see famous people over-doing it all the time. Published works are generally over-done, or they wouldn’t be published. It falls under the general ailment of American society, seen in abundance in my field of mathematics, that technique replaces everything else. Substance, profundity, immanence, and what actually serves society, is replaced with attention to detail and over-work. And this ailment is ultimately driven by fear. People get convinced that they need attention, they come into the world with a job to do, a job that they’re good at, but because of an environment of competition, they are afraid that they’re work wont get done, because it will get ignored. A lot of things that are over-done don’t matter much. Nintendo? Game of Thrones? “Pro” wrestling? Some things that matter a lot are so over-done that they lose their potency, such as bills that are negotiated in the American government. They get rhetorical names, but their contents are like, I believe the metaphor the media likes is ground up sausage. Look at Obama-era health care bills. They managed to rearrange some things, it did help some people in very important, life-saving ways, and it made the private medical companies’ stocks go up. What was it? I admit I am not enough of a fanatic to find out, and if I were, the burden of communicating what I found would be immense. It was over-done to make it “dark.” People can be more easily manipulated, or forced into their already entrenched dogmas, because they don’t understand what is going on.
Is academia different? I’ve heard it said that academics are basically politicians, I would add that they tend to be more soft-spoken and polite politicians. Social constructivism is an obvious example, obvious because it is honest about being political. Other paradigms are just as political.
I have become convinced there is nothing new under the sun. Everything has been said at least indirectly. The things that really need to be said have been said before, but they need their expiration date renewed. The resistance to it, if its worth saying, will be actually be political, but the arguments will be technical, and if you want to get published while going against the stampeding herd, you have to be meticulous and over-do it. That is why “work” is an unassailable ideal in academia. Just call it “jobs” and you’re a politician.
One very important consequence of this system is that interdisciplinary works get ignored because they cannot follow the techniques of a given discipline as well as narrowly-focused work can.
I think Borge’s comparison of the Argentinian verses the US-American is apt. Borge’s says that to an Argentinian, a book that has received a reward might be good despite the reward, where US-Americans generally go by the New York Times bestseller award or others.
I offer a way out of this situation with two concepts: Bravery and Skepticism.
Skepticism is the attitude that helps the consumer, the path of being.
Bravery helps the creator, the path of doing
When you are doing things, don’t over do them. This takes skepticism as well as bravery. Eventually you have to say “this is not perfect, it is good enough” Care is a kind of fear. When you are careful in your work, you have to know when you are caring too much, when you just have to be brave and stop worrying over your work. That takes bravery because you have to face the attention you are going to get, however little that might be. You have to face a general attitude that works should be overdone and your work “doesn’t count” because it isn’t as meticulous as other works and doesn’t show the right technique. You have to face not getting published, and getting ignored. If you really chose the path of doing, this is hard to face, and it feels like you didn’t really accomplish anything.
But actually it is the only way to really accomplish anything, because instead of pursuing technique you can pursue other things.
People say technology has to be over-done, and we wouldn’t have our wonderful toys without our belief in technique. The drawbacks are obvious but not in focus: gadgets that depend on software that will only be supported for a few years, other gadgets that require specific replacement parts that wont be made for that long. The “designed obsolescence” concept doesn’t go far enough. The reason for all the trash is more embedded in our minds than that. I’d like to ask Darwin if he thinks we’ve won the competition.
Now the audience for your work that is not over-done is the rare skeptic. They are the ones who will recognize that it doesn’t have to be “out-done” with greater attention to detail, beyond its surface appearance. They will see and appreciate substance, immanence, profundity, and how it serves humanity beyond whether it “out-does.”