We all want a flourishing life. We all want to be living a life full of energy and purpose. We come to understand in time that we must work to make this happen but not always how to do it. What truly matters in this search? What tools do we need to make this happen? To what extent does the artistic dimension matter in finding eudaimonia? To what extent do these questions shape Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia?
We can agree these questions are important but one question we often miss is, How does our cohort fit into this? Cohort refers to the specific social group we are born in, in my case a 1958-born white Italian-American YUPPIE male growing up at the border of the 20th and 21st century. Change one of these factors and the cohort changes dramatically. We can see ourselves as part of numerous cohorts of course but the significant one are those were we find many people like that we can interact with. That is what makes us part of a group and it is the interaction with that group that comes to shape our personal identity. For myself the Italian American aspect has diminished simply because I do not have such people as part of my day-to-day life, so the qualities of cohort that I am aware of is really 1958-born white YUPPIE male growing up at the border of the 20th and 21st century. This has influenced my Eudaimonic Self.
This need not be a one way street because, after all, it is individuals who make up the cohort. and it is individual seeking eudaimonia that make up the Eudaimonic Surround that gets created. Each cohort creates its own Eudaimonic Surround that we can influence. How do I want to influence my eudaimonic surround so that it is useful to the other Eudaimonic Selves that are part of my cohort? This is a central question to ask if Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia is to achieve something beyond itself.
We cannot choose when we are born, the historical moment we will exist, the place we will find ourselves, the events that will be presented before us, the people we will have to choose from for companions and adversaries during life. We are born into a cohort, a given that like the ocean deep can never be fully appreciated or seen, only at best felt. And it is here precisely in our cohort that we will find what is most precious: a flourishing life.
You watch your world, a kaleidoscopic sociocultural spacetime, changing. Your cohort is your ride through this world. As we seek our Eudaimonia Self, we also must understand how cohort’s eudaimonia is related to this. How it affects us and we can effect it. For most of us it is largely a one way street: the cohort has greater influence on us. For some, like a Steve Jobs or a Barak Obama, they has a large influence on our cohort. But do not let this mislead you: the genius of these men is having understood and accessed the cohort’s eudaimonia and channeled it into focused feedback, i.e. to give it structure we can become aware of and use for our own Eudaimonic Self. It is what we all would like to do.
An artist understands that he can influence the Eudaimonic Surround on whatever scale he is capable of doing. We need not be a Steve Jobs or a Barak Obama to be successful, just know what we can do with the tools at our disposable. Our impact on the Eudaimonic Surround, large or small, is nonetheless real.
As an artist you come to understand that your tools are never limited, only your use of the tools you have before you. An artist creates art out of the most simple tools. He is able to see where the order and disorder blend into the tool’s chaotic edge of creation. It is this edge that gets used to create the most meaningful artworks. Seeking and finding Eudaimonia is about understanding the tools at your disposable, finding their edge and then creating artworks that can influence the Eudaimonic Surround. It is a fundamentally social activity because its purpose is to reach other Eudaimonic Selves in your cohort. without this social interface, you cannot access the full power of a flourishing life. The flourishing life must raise all boats or it raises no one more than a few inches at best.
With this framework in mind, what is the purpose of Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia? How will it achieve these ends? To answer this, we must understand the cohort of interest here — the broad middle age (40-65) YUPPIE growing up at the border of the 20th and 21st century. This is a broader cohort that the more specific one listed at the beginning but it is one that I think is the relevant one. there is enough similarities among those in this group to justify it being called a broad cohort. We could refer to this as the Baby Boomer Cohort but that term has too much baggage to be looked at freshly. Perhaps simply the Early 21st Century Midlife Adult Cohort.
The Early 21st Century Midlife Adult Cohort is different from the previous cohorts its age. It is more educated and more self-aware. It is concerned not just with doing but also being. It sees the value of introspection, sometimes to a fault, and is concerned with individual happiness as much as family and social happiness. It will not exclusively sacrifice itself for the greater good as readily and it expects transparency from those who claim authority. What might be of use to these Eudaimonic Selves in seeking their own eudaimonia?
The answer to this question is of course endless. There is no limit other than the imagination. Since I have chosen to start with a motorcycle and a camera, I am focusing on an answer than involves these two tools. It would be helpful to say what it is not first.
It is not going for trips and taking pictures and then writing a travel log: I went here, I saw that, I ate this, I took this wrote, here are snapshots of me doing these things and the people I met. Nothing wrong with such things but they are focused on the doing, the externals of the experience. For the Early 21st Century Midlife Adult Cohort there is also a desire, maybe even more so, for the internal aspects of this experience. In fact, to be more specific, there is a desire to integrate the internal and external on an equal footing, perhaps even to return to Experience before it was necessarily separated out into internal and external, before the subject/object split became prominent in our collective thinking. I say necessarily because structure develops first by analyzing and then synthesizing; there can be no structured experience without the separation of subject and object first which is later to be integrated.
So here is where we have arrived; if we were to assign a Mission Statement this is what it would be:
The purpose of Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia is to use the motorcycle and the camera as tools to create material that would be useful to the Early 21st Century Midlife Adult Cohort in seeking eudaimonia. The material created -— the essays, the photographs and the videos — are searching for a way to express themselves in the language of nondual Experience which will speak to this cohort in the most meaningful fashion.
Is this concern with non-dual Experience totally new? No, it is not. In fact, John Dewey’s Philosophy is based on it. It is seen as part of the American Pragmatic Movement that included Charles Peirce and William James. I do not intend to descend into this philosophical forest which while interesting is considerable (and ultimately not needed for what we are doing here). For those who may want to follow these threads you cannot do better than Dewey: A Beginner’s Guide.
Dewey wrote almost a century ago, so why would this be relevant today. Because his ideas have never really be fully understood or integrated despite having had an enormous influence on education and philosophy in general. It was an idea ahead of its time for the typical person and with the Modern Age about to get underway with a very different agenda, it was steamrolled away. Flatted but not destroyed, it is time to bring back this view of Experience, a non-dual basis to build our lives on and go looking for our Eudaimonic Selves. The Early 21st Century Midlife Adult Cohort is ready for this and perhaps to lay the groundwork for the cohorts that are following us as well. This is the plan, this is the hope, this is work: to ride our cohort into Eudaimonia.
May You Always EnjoyThe Ride