Go Deep and Authentic? Sometimes Shallow Imitation Is Better

Ersatz Arts Therapy: A therapeutic direction that deserves more attention.

Posted Jun 25, 2020

We humans carry the baggage of thousands of years of history and billions of years of natural history. We have urges from other eras that recede from relevance at an accelerating rate in these accelerating times. We lug around distracting urges to do things we can’t, shouldn’t, and don’t want to do, even though we’re compelled. 

We want to stay lean but we binge like it’s feast or famine as it was once. We want to stay unencumbered and respectful but we feel this urge to get married, commit adultery, and have lots of kids like it was the middle ages or the 1950s. We want to live within our means but we have this scarcity-scared urge to hoard. We know tribalism is a problem but we feel this urge to rebel-yell for our tribe and stone other tribes to death. 

What should we do with all this baggage? Renounce it? Just say no? 

Yeah, like that’s gonna work.

For years, I was mildly disdainful of dog ownership. I even thought it was a little pitiful to dote on pups like they're your children. And the eco-damage from all those meat-eaters!

But compared to having children, dog paws leave a light carbon footprint. Children are wonderful but having one stomps a giant carbon footprint on this world, perhaps equivalent to unleashing a fleet of hummers. Humans have this urge to parent. Dogs are an alternative, surrogate, children, sibling subs, ersatz tots.

I love cheap substitutes. I'm deep into the ersarts, the art of the ersatz, the fake substitutes, cheap imitations. See, I believe in strategic gullibility, and optimal illusion, kidding ourselves where it helps – the ability to enjoy Stevia instead of sugar, VR instead of travel, TV instead of costly real-world thrills, spectator sports instead of tribal wars, masturbation instead of unwanted commitments and overpopulation. 

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Source: Created by author.

Cheap substitutes are a big part of the solution to our ecological and psychological problems. 

I’d like to see therapists shift a little attention away from the pursuit of the authentic to a pursuit of the artificial. Ersatz Art therapy. It’s hinted at by therapy’s pioneers. Freud saw “sublimation” as crucial to well being, channeling our libidos into our work. Early in humanistic psychology pioneer, Abraham Maslow’s career he helped a patient with a messiah complex channel his inner Jesus into carpentry work. There’s more to be done with that, some of it being done, for example, service animals for the traumatized and lonely.

Therapy is not all about going deeper or more authentic. There are shallow imitation solutions we’ve got to add to the therapeutic repertoire. We have to help people find more safe ways to make-believe. 

Escapism is inescapable. Life is too hard. If we’re going to make it through, we need to put more on emphasis safe escapism, ways to drain our lizard brains so we can focus efficiently on the pressing tasks at hand. 

Not all escapism is safe. I’ve long advocated optimal illusion, kidding ourselves where it helps, not where it harms.

I have a broccoli, fruit, and Stevia smoothie on tap all the time. I put xantham gum in it and it gets thick. A few bran flakes smothered in the stuff and I call it chocolate chip ice cream. That's strategic gullibility. Ersarts. An ice-cream substitute.

I play music alone at home and imagine I'm a virtuoso. I'm not, but it's fun to pretend. Ersarts. I get my ya-yas out by strategic gullibility.

I write like I've got an enormous audience. I don’t, but it's an optimal illusion. It makes me think I'm more important than I am. Some talk to their dogs. Some people pray to God.

Folks beat down by life all week tuck into church on Sunday to make believe they’re God’s chosen favorites, destined for grace, forgiveness and heaven. Ersartz. Surrogate success.

Fiction is ersatz adventure. You don’t have to have been there and it would cost too much to go, but you can make believe you were there. 

You can make believe you’ve triumphed in bloody battle when your sports team wins, when you get to the next video game level, or when you go to some badass anthem metal concert, “We are the champions.” No, you’re not but there’s no harm in pretending. Better that than going to war or turning politics into a bloodyminded cold civil war. Get your ya-yas out safely. 

Virtual vice is a virtue when it’s a substitute for real-world vice. Drain the lizard brain and get back to reality. 

The ersarts list goes on and we need it to. The ersarts are part of how we can lighten our carbon footprint and find the lifestyles we need as we try to keep up with changing times while lugging around the baggage of outmoded urges.