This is a combination of two posts I wrote a year ago and decided to revisit as part of putting together the "I have everything project". In addition to an essay, the project also includes installations, collages, digitally manipulated photographs, photographs of various objects and a sound recording.
"I have everything" project started with ( even before ) moving from the Marina in San Francisco to a small room with a red chair in Harlem. The title I got from a message I scribbled over a Nordstrom catalog. It is so brash, of course no one ever has everything and it is factually incorrect. Because you ever only need one thing - the ability to think independently.
For centuries people found comfort and security in being told what to think. Peoples have been thinking the thoughts of kings and queens, the thoughts of their masters, the town elders , the pharaohs, the priests ( don't get me wrong I am religious but I argue and think about my religion and don't you ever take that from me). For if there's a great gift that the French gave to the world it is the opinion of the common man.
Now as part of this project, being a common man myself and also confronting the Occupy movement in New York, I made several sound recordings where I reflected on the question of what is it to have. Occupy had stratified people into the 99 and 1 percent, where there were some that had more than the others. I made a thought experiment of trying to determine what is it to have.
What is it to have? To hold? How is it that we are having it when we are not holding it? How do we have the things that we supposedly have like our limbs. We posses temporary control over a collection of molecules that responds to electrical stimuli? Is that the having? But we do own supposedly things that we neither hold nor electrically stimulate. How are we sure. It is a fascinating subject.
When I open a newspaper it is as if we never went through the Enlightenment. It is full of guided content and regurgitated narratives of sex, guns, and money. Have you ever wondered how many girlfriends Kant had, or Plato? Did you ever wonder how much money Van Gogh had? None.
No one ever tells you that the most important thing that you own, apart from your good health and the proper function of all your organs, is your ability to think independently. And the second thing is your ability to express and argue your opinion in public. These were the two Dreams of the Enlightenment.
In his Essay What Is Enlightenment? Kant defines Enlightenment as "man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one's own understanding without another's guidance." For his second dream he says "the public use of one's reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind."
Once you have traded your goods and services, obtained lodging and food, secured your home, sturdied your frame and medicated your body, feel free to use the greatest gift you may ever have, free thought.