The new and possibly final Wu-Tang album is more than two hours long. It features 31 tracks, all eight living MCs, ... sirens, bombs, samples from kung fu cinema, and original skits. And it took more than two years to produce, mostly because eighty percent of its vocals were re-recorded to capture the intensity of early Wu-Tang records. The album’s title: Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
Here is some additional info: the CD is housed within two nickel-silver boxes that were hand-carved by a Moroccan artist and his team of ten workers over three months; there is only one physical copy of the album in existence; all digital versions have been destroyed; and bidding starts at $5 million. And we learned yesterday that Once Upon a Time in Shaolin will remain under copyright until 2103 — that’s 88 years.
I came across this article and now the Wu-Tang Clan fascinates me like an itch on the back of my head. I think a lot about making stuff. I really enjoy making stuff.
Creating. Art. Design. Expression. Speaking. Performing. Writing. Evangelizing. Catechizing. MAKING BABIES.
This is a brilliant lesson for all of us that like to make stuff.
--> Drop your expensive pen and listen. <--
There's a saying that in order to survive in a competitive market you are either the first or the best. Quality. There is always room in a market for high quality, because there's virtually no ceiling on it. The Wu-Tang clan spared no expense in making this album.
Hand-cvarved by a Moroccan artist and ten others. Read that again.
Oh, you threw some paint on a square and called it a day? Not the Wu. They took longer and spent more money and crammed more stuff into an album to make it arguably the most valuable, rare, and unique album ever. Do you slave over the stuff you make? Is it high quality?
How do you know if something is high quality? It kicks a**. People can't not say something about it. People save it. People frame it. People recited it back to you. People share it. People put it on repeat. People lock it in a museum. People are moved by it.
Lots of people. People who don't go to your Church, and people who don't know who you are, and people who aren't the same political party as you. People who are far from you. People who speak a different language. People who disagree with you fundamentally. People who hate you.
Another principal in market economics (that is, selling the crap you make) is scarcity. Scarcity makes something special. Like diamonds. (Or not like diamonds).
There is only one copy of this record. They played it publicly only once. Some people showed up in a room naked without their phones or cameras or recorders or other artificial-experience-validators. And maybe for the first time in years, this album and the weight of its scarcity forced people to shut up and just stand there. It was only going to be played once.
In the search for market penetration, or mass acceptance, or mainstream affirmation, do we forget to make things that are scarce? Scarcity makes something valuable. The most un-scarce things are the least valuable, or at least the least appreciated.
And not just things that are actually, physically, scarce. We often lack a scarcity awareness. The awareness that this minute passing right now is the first and last of its kind. The awareness that this life is only singular. The awareness of the scarcity of good friends. A scarcity awareness.
When making something, the maker must bake scarcity into it. Turn off the camera. Throw away the other copies. Perform it live. Do something singular.
When something can make you feel the weight of scarcity, you see it for the first time. Everything else blurs out of focus. You see it as if it and you are the only things. You really see it.
Does It Have a Scarce Quality?
The Church is calling for a new evangelization. An evangelization "new in its ardor, method, and expression". Its what Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict championed for.
I'm starting to develop a thesis that might somehow connect artists/makers/creators to the future development of evangelization. Maybe its not a big deal. But it sure does help push me further.
"As the 20th century draws to a close, the Church is bidden by God and by events - each of them a call from Him - to renew her trust in catechetical activity as a prime aspect of her mission. She is bidden to offer catechesis her best resources in people and energy, without sparing effort, toil or material means, in order to organize it better and to train qualified personnel." Catechesi Tradendae #15
Are we challenging the borders of this new frontier?
Are we striving constantly to make things that are scarce and high quality?
Or are we racing to repeat things that are popular and unchallenging and that are sure to work?
Do our talks and conferences match up to this? Or are we just repeating THE SAME FREAKING CONFERENCE and the same talks and cute sayings ad infinitum? Does our music challenge us like this? Does our art challenge us? Is it high quality and scarce, sparing no effort or toil or material means?
And here's what is most important to us Christians:
Is our Church's evangelization, catechesis, music, art, culture, writing, [fill in the thing you make] the highest quality and does it weigh heavy in that kind of scarcity that arrests people and holds them still.
Because if the Gospel isn't that, then you aren't sharing the Gospel.