by Maria Popova
“”When we really see each other, we want to help each other.”
“It would be a terrible calamity,” Henry Miller wrote in his meditation on the beautiful osmosis between giving and receiving, “for the world if we eliminated the beggar. The beggar is just as important in the scheme of things as the giver. If begging were ever eliminated God help us if there should no longer be a need to appeal to some other human being, to make him give of his riches.” And yet, we live in a culture that perpetuates the false perception of a certain power dynamic between giver and receiver, and – worse yet – stigmatizes the very act of asking as undignified.
Last week, I had the pleasure of spending some time with the wonderful Amanda Palmer who, besides being an extraordinarily talented musician, is also a fellow champion of open culture and believer in making good work freely available, trusting that those who find value in it will support it accordingly. Disillusioned with the questionable success standards of the music industry, she recently left her record label and set out to self-release her next album in what became the most heartily funded music project in the history of Kickstarter – but not without some harsh criticism by those too attached to the crumbling comforts of the Olden Ways. In this brave talk, easily my favorite TED talk of all time, Amanda invites us to reclaim the art of asking from the insecure grip of shame and celebrate it instead as the sublime surge of mutuality that it is:
Through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you. It’s kind of counterintuitive for a lot of artists – they don’t want to ask for things. It’s not easy to ask. … Asking makes you vulnerable.
I don’t see these things as risks – I see them as trust. … But the perfect tools can’t help us if we can’t face each other, and give and receive fearlessly – but, more importantly, to ask without shame. … When we really see each other, we want to help each other. I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?’
To partake in the architecture of this new paradigm and revel in the two-way street of this glorious mutuality, support Amanda’s music and ethos on her site, where you can download her fantastic new album – for free or for however much you’d like – and go see one of her shows if you get a chance. For more of her spirit of fierce openness, follow her Twitter.”