Art is the material thing that happens when someone manages to release the pole around which, to a selfish person, the entire universe seems to rotate. You feel your own sense of importance slip away as your grip on that pole loosens. That loss-of-self is right at the heart of any kind of performance. This is why people who are really good at it frequently come across as simple-minded or pretentious when asked to explain how they do it. They don’t know, because they weren’t there. Now, fear is the art of selfish times. Fear is what is produced by people gripping ever more tightly to the pole at the center of themselves. Fear of losing what they take as evidence that they are, indeed, themselves, and so the center of everything. It’s usually money, but any source of prestige that can be quantified will do. Racial purity (full-blood, half-blood, quadroon, etc.) is another example.

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