I’m Jealous of Artists

Sometimes, I read a really good poem or see a really beautiful picture, and I’m touched.

Then, I’m jealous.

I think to myself, “maybe, if I hadn’t spent all those years learning how to program, I could create beautiful art.” Instead, I’m always ashamed of the things I create. My words are always so clunky and labored, my pictures so crude.

I can’t communicate with anything as quickly as I can communicate with a computer. But what is that? It’s not as if it’s ever going to talk back.

When I was younger, I saw this in myself. I was condescending toward other people’s technical abilities, not because I really thought I was better, but because it’s all I had. Sugar said Art isn’t anecdote. It’s the consciousness we bring to bear on our lives. When I look at the work of an artist, I think “Why do you get to bring consciousness to your life, while I have to figure out how to spam people’s facebook walls with messages they don’t want?”

I mean, if I can’t be *better* than artists in some intangible way, then I have to face that what I’m programming is ultimately devoid of anything that actually touches at what it means to be human. Well, I guess I get more money too. Maybe if I spend enough, I can look attractive enough to make other people jealous, and then that would almost be like winning. 

Truth is, deeply, I do believe there is something there to our technology – but what is it? I’ve become so distracted by the mindless repetition of the ideas I’m inundated by that I’ve lost the ability to step back. 

So many people want to “get into” tech, and I desperately want out. Not to stop programming, but to be out of this fucking bubble where programming is valued as somehow elite. People are willing to waste their minds doing meaningless tasks in order to “be technical,” rather than really figure out “is this what I want? is this what we want?”

Why work an 80 hour week to impress people, when you could be – say – living? I have actually blown off dates so i could work until 10 pm before. For what? So people would like me more – or act like they liked me. I’m not sure someone who actually liked me would want me working an 80 hour week, but then again, they may simply have not thought through the repercussions. 

What does it mean that all we can do with our time saving technology is work more? Is this the end game – program more, and teach more people to program, so we can keep programming? 

Or is there something else?

3 thoughts on “I’m Jealous of Artists

  1. I know what you mean. Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Artists make people feel, and coders rarely get that chance. We make life convenient and efficient, they make it worth living.

    That said, I haven’t given up on tech entirely. This very notion has led me to build interactive art projects (http://elplatt.com/tags/interactive ) that I’ve seen light up the faces of children. I also find coding can be beautiful as an art form in itself, not in the syntax, but in the structure and coordination of the parts. The only thing there is that there aren’t a lot of people you can share that beauty with.

  2. Yeah, I agree there’s something artistic about programming (both in the end result, and in the actual code.) That said, I find it difficult to have an outlet for it – and, I think it’s partly the culture around tech vs the culture around art.

    I find your comment on emotions interesting – I definitely have seen technological art that made me feel something. Although, it’s not usually the case (unless, a sort of mild boredom counts as a feeling). Maybe that’s a good place to start, thanks 🙂

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