Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions. The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness.
–Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., novelist (1922-2007)
This quotation is from Bluebeard, the Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988), a novel by Vonnegut, well before the internet explosion. I haven’t read it, but it’s on my list now. I put this up as my facebook status, as I often do with interesting quotations, and I received a lot of attention and “likes.” A lot of us must feel this way, maybe as a generation. Useless, underachieving, struggling, uncreative. I’ve felt this way. After the “me” generation, mothers telling us we’re all brilliant, the world is our oyster. I think the key in getting by in this world, perhaps in achieving any sort of true, lasting happiness, is in letting it all go. Perhaps we’re all brilliant in some way. But it’s a fact that not all will be famous, wealthy, beloved by millions, respected by experts, world champions, successful inventors, world leaders, mountain-movers, saviors of humanity, and the like. As it always has been. Why should this be a source of suffering? This doesn’t mean we need to settle into mediocrity. Not at all. We can all be participants, do important things, whether they are small or large, whether they are noticed or not. I’ve not been feeling too well, in many ways, not that it needs to be mentioned. In this time, I’ve watched a ridiculous amount of West Wing re-runs. Brilliant writing, intelligent, insightful. Watching it, I feel both proud and ashamed. It’s a show about people making a difference. Yes, people in positions of great power and sway, but moving, grooving, and improving nonetheless. And here I am, in the act of watching it, doing nothing. A great democracy, and I watch, complacently.
Need to remember: small things, small steps, patience, and not to drag myself, my self-worth into the mud. Also known as letting go.
This has nothing to do with anything, I suppose, but this poem makes me deliriously happy. Joy. Small pockets of joy. We are all the heroes of our own lives, the happy geniuses of our households.
If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,–
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,–
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?
William Carlos Williams, (1883-1963)