"You know when you make popcorn there are those fluffy white kernels that are fun to eat but there are also those burnt black kernels that don't pop. You know why they don't pop? Because they have integrity." -Marc Maron
I alluded to the idea of integrity in a previous post but today I'd like to assess its true value. Before I dive into uncharted territory let me first say that as a concept I believe in integrity. Doing things wholly/completely by justifiable and ethical means is of course the ideal way to live. However, is it even possible to survive at this stage of our evolution with our integrity intact?
I often hear people say "I'd rather create truly great art that no one sees rather than sell out." This highly ignorant statement assumes that integrity is linked to artistic ability but what if your art sucks either way? Perhaps people don't "understand" your art because it is terrible, not because you are an undiscovered genius buried beneath a blanket of radio gaga. Integrity in many cases is simply used to justify failure and to prop up someone's self esteem rather than uphold a divine code of honor.
You will always be remembered for your least interesting work. In the past a few authors and artists may have had a fighting chance of maintaining their integrity because in order for them to succeed they had to be understood and appreciated. These days the lightning quick response of television and the immediacy of the internet reduce our lives to the lowest common denominator. We seek out stimulus to excite our impulses rather than get drawn in for an emotional experience.
In the past bands were forced to cut singles which were typically different sounding than the rest of the tracks on the CD. The intent of these singles was to get a chorus or riff stuck in your head quickly and infect your body with a desire to purchase an entire CD. Once you got the CD home you/I were supposed to listen to the rest of the tracks and experience "the band." However, back in the 90's it was a common practice of mine to buy a CD and just listen to "the hits." What did this mean for the artist who slaved away at crafting a piece of art? It meant that I didn't care about their inner expression I just identified with the hit making formula of verse/chorus/verse with melody. Today's model is an amplified version of the above model. There is no longer any room for true expression to be buried in the deep tracks of a CD. Everything is constructed with the intent of building a catch phrase, clothing line or scent around it.
Don't be fooled into believing that the people who are "discovered" on American idol are farmhands or dockworkers who work four jobs to help pay for their grandmothers diabetes medication. Almost all of those kids have been plugging away (and failing) at a singing career for years. They have all sold out and signed on to fabricated stories embellished and designed to warm the cockles of your heart so that you will PAY to vote for them. But what about those internet stars who "made it" without advertising? They were quickly absorbed into the machine and were stretched, pushed and pulled to fit a form. Those who did not adhere or those who had a shorter life span were devoured for a few advertising dollars before their lifeless bodies were tossed back into the sea of names.
However, not everyone desires to be famous, surely there is a way to live a normal life with your integrity intact right? False. Acting honorably in a noble world will grant you reverence. However, acting honorably in an easily distracted self serving world will hobble or destroy you. If someone is out for your job, wife or life and they are able to accurately predict how you will act you will be easily taken advantage of. With integrity life is "solitary poor nasty brutish and short."