Monday, December 10, 2007
My last post warned against the temptation to believe either yourself or others that you deserve recognition. I recommended against ever going there. Pit of despair. A hole you'll never get out of so you will just keep digging deeper and deeper and deeper. It is a question of grace. Humility. Shame, even. But the message I sent was loud and clear if you want to live a healthy, happy, productive life as an artist: don't you dare!
Its twisted twin of temptation is just as dangerous: ever believing that you are exceptional. If you or anyone else either whispers it in your ear or shouts it from the rooftops, don't believe it. It is a trap. This hole will be just as hard to get out of and take years of penance. Exceptional is the secret secret of the spoiled brat, the selfish jerk, the crazed egomaniac. Special rules.
In earlier posts I've invited everyone to think of themselves as special, in that way that all life is special, in that way that all life is a miracle; and I believe that. I believe that everyone has the gift of life; the gift of a mind of one's own; the gift of a free spirit. THIS IS NOT THE SAME! This does not make you better than anyone else!
How can I explain this to the satisfaction of both sides of this argument: to the ones who believe that no one is special and that to think otherwise invites only chaos; and to the ones who accept this as an invitation to be spoiled, selfish, and arrogant.
The first group discourages all things in others. To discourage is to cut the legs out from under. It is to invite failure and foster cowardice and fear.
The second group encourages the wrong sort of behavior. It's my-party-I'll-cry-if-I-want-to behavior. It is a poor substitute for true encouragement, which inspires others to be brave, to do the right thing, to lift themselves and other up, to reach for the best in themselves and each other. That is what encourage means.
Embrace that you have been given a special gift as an artist, but never believe that this makes you exceptional. Again, it doesn't make you better than anyone else. The gift is for giving. It is inner, and personal; and the other thing, the aberration, is the worst in us, some sort of license to run roughshod over the world.
Some might say that this is all really a question of balance; balancing the rights of the individual against the rights of the group and vice-versa. Perhaps this is so. Knowing where to draw the line. I think it is more appropriate to call on the idea of the heart, which has always been synonymous with both courage and goodness. I think that is where we find the answers.
In our hearts we know what is right, and in our hearts we know that life is special, and that it demands that we are brave. This covers both the individual and the group. Choose that. Exceptional is indeed the province of all things ego. And so I caution: don't go there.
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Nonetheless it might be worth adding that in the rare, rare instance of the truly exceptional, if and when it exists, one would more than likely find nothing less than complete grace and humility, and not even the smallest whisper of...