One of my favorite musical “acts” is Blue Man Group. The Blue Man Group explores, with primitively modern musical instruments, society, detachment, and collectivism. You may remember them from Intel’s old Pentium commercials. You may also remember them from the television show Arrested Development, in which the character Tobias, played by David Cross, auditioned for the show and failed, later declaring, “I blue myself.” Blue Man Group has shows in New York City, Boston, Las Vegas, and a few other cities, as well as a touring rock show, with each show similar but not identical to the others.
I recently picked up the latest Blue Man Group CD and DVD combination package, How to Be a Megastar! and watched the program. It includes fantastic music and visual performances as I expected, but I am equally intrigued by the special features, including a documentary-style interview with the creators of Blue Man Group, Phil Stanton, Chris Wink, and Matt Goldman.
When originally devising the concept of the Blue Man, the creators struggled at first. These three percussionists, who were working day-jobs as caterers in New York City, were ready to abandon their vision. At the right time, they received a sign. While watching television, they came across an interview with an expert on religion and philosophy. In this interview, the expert was asked to summarize the prevailing philosophical thought across the world, to which he answered: “Follow your bliss.”
Stanton, Wink and Goldman then knew that despite their difficulties, they must continue to create their vision through completion, even if success would never come. Thankfully for them, success did come, and Blue Man Group is now a cultural phenomenon. But the interview made me think about this particular philosophical idea.
First of all, what is “bliss?” Wordnet defines the word’s most common sense: a state of extreme happiness. The true path is the path that leads you towards a state of extreme happiness. In fact, in the interview, the creators of Blue Man Group went on to say that the journey is more important than the destination.
Am I following my bliss? I’m not sure. There was a time when I thought I had my life planned out, but year by year, I allowed this path to change. I’m now quite far from what I thought I would be doing with my life by this point, the age of 32. My job is fine, but it’s not intellectually, emotionally, or artistically stimulating. I like writing for Consumerism Commentary, but I’m not a particularly good writer. I enjoy building online communities, and that may be my personal strength for the moment, but is it my “bliss?”
Who should follow this advice, to follow one’s bliss? Perhaps not everyone has the luxury of doing so. The world needs janitors, truck drivers, bus boys, and others who perform thankless jobs — the jobs children often don’t think of when they are asked what they’d like to be when they grow up. But then again, are we sure that these individuals are not following their bliss? Perhaps their “extreme happiness” is satisfied simply by providing for their family in any manner possible.
In the case of the creators of the Blue Man Group, they needed to complete their project before they could be satisfied. With success, it seems their project may never be complete; shows are revised, new tours are initiated, and new audiences are born constantly.
After leaving the arts world, I thought my goal would be to volunteer for causes about which I feel strongly or become a to philanthropist as much as my budget allows. It seems I may be too picky to do so at the level at which I would be making a difference, and in some cases, to do so at all. Even though the organization closest to meeting my requirements is strongly involved in the activity I wish to support, having been close to that organization with intimate knowledge of its administration, I’d prefer not to do business with them. Unfortunately, no other organization is similar.
Do you follow your bliss?
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published April 20, 2008.