The other day, in a group political debate, someone said that I was too extreme. This isn’t the first time I’ve been called this and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, unlike previous incidents of being labeled a radical, this time, I understood what they were actually saying. They were saying, “Change scares me. You’re proposing some dramatic changes to how things are done. And that really scares me.”
Current power structures depend on keeping us in line in order to survive. Extremism is seen as a threat to the false security that we’ve been promised. So, in an effort to avoid disruption and change, we quash anything that feels too edgy. We convince ourselves that safer is better and that things aren’t really as bad as they are. Change scares us and dramatic change scares us even more.
Despite the stories we tell ourselves, however, we are living in a time of extremes. Environmental collapse. The disintegration of democracy. Wealth disparity. Mass loneliness. Hustle culture. On a micro level, we’re even extreme in our daily lives. In how much sleep we do or don’t get; in how much caffeine and sugar we consume; in how much we work; in the time we spend in front of screens.
As creatives, we can use our work to explore extremes and the possibilities that exist there. Some of us even choose to explore extremes in how we live our lives and participate in capitalism. Which is the other truth behind being “too extreme”: just because radical new ways of being aren’t something the majority of people are interested in embodying, there’s still so much value in leaning into those edges.
One of the quotes stuck to my workspace wall right now is by Anaïs Nin. It reads, “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” So as much as our cultural climate would rather we stay in line and don’t rock the boat, we are in desperate need of art that reimagines how our world can be.
As someone who is “too extreme,” I understand that my ideals will probably never become the norm. At the same time, I’m not going to stop exploring them. Because, like those creatives who have come before me, my role is to show people how things could be. And maybe in some small way tip the scales towards a world that isn’t rushing towards extreme environmental and social collapse.
So, what extremes are you most interested in exploring?