Posts Tagged ‘mediocrity’

From the Editor’s Perch…

May 12, 2014

Identical  Businessmen11

“You’re the Devil”

 

My son asked me if I planned to continue participating in live theater after we moved to Ohio.  And I said that I wasn’t sure.  But that I’d probably “continue writing my serial fiction, because I enjoy making up stuff.”

And he said, “What’s the point of writing stuff, if people don’t read it?”

This gave me pause.  “You’re the Devil,” I replied.

 

What is the role of failure?  Success seems all important.  People kill themselves for lack of success.  It’s the all too common reason for suicide.  Why is success so important!  Why does it badger us so?  Failure seems a particularly human affliction.  It is hard to imagine a squirrel hanging itself, because it feels like a ‘loser’ – or a bird, or an ant, or a worm for that matter doing themselves in.  Lemmings run off of cliff sides.  But does an actual feeling of despair initially sweep across their community beforehand, so that they lose all bearings?

And if success is so important, where does that leave mediocrity?

Very few of us are successful.  Fewer still are wildly successful.  And even the wildly successful often remain ambitious – or even moreso.  And history has shown us (in quite lurid detail) that ambition is insatiable, and probably makes us – even more suicidal!

Yet statistically, the vast majority of us must be mediocre.  There is no logical way around this conundrum.  So what is the role of failure?

 

More than anything, we tend to react to failure as if it were the Devil’s pronged fork.  We distance ourselves from the pointy end as much as possible!  “I’m not a failure.  I’m successfully earning a living.”  “I’m on my way to success.”  “I am learning the ropes.”  “I am supporting my family of five, all of whom are way above normal.”  “I am helping the less fortunate.”  “I’m in an internship! J” “I could be more successful, if that’s what I really wanted.”  “No one is a failure who has friends.” “I feel I’m already a success.”  Or, perhaps the most desperate, “I’m a good person!”

Sorry.  You are nearly all ‘losers’.  You are not ‘dying with all the toys’.  And you are not  ‘the winner’.  The good news is that this is only sounds harsh if you think it does.  Otherwise, it’s a source of wry humor… which, (to my way of thinking), is God smiling.

 

But where does this leave the artistically inclined?  Most artists will become, like most others, mediocre.  Even most successful artists earn a living with difficulty.  Artists must push an enormous burden to raise a family.  And, their activities are more often than not, self-centered.  It is very hard for an artist to distance him/herself from the prongs of failure.

So, to get back to the issue raised by my son, ““What’s the point of writing stuff, if people don’t read it?”

Well, you know, (my son), the cup is always half full.  Very few of the solutions, and most of the problems of my artistic life have come from the people who have ‘read it’.  An audience can be a burden – even a hex.  If you don’t believe this, just attend any artistic ‘talk back’.  There is usually a moderator present to protect the creative type – both from the ‘haters’ and the ‘lovers’.  Once you have raised an audience, there are packs of hungry egos out there to both want it / and to demean it.

As for money…  Once people pay for something, there is this feeling that they own it.  And people pay an artist, because they want more of the same thing.  But, if you’re not paid a cent, no one owns you.  And no one tells you what to do.

 

But, even acknowledging all of this, if you’re mediocre, people might ask, what is the point of producing more work?  That is, if your art accomplishes nothing, what’s the point in making it?

In responding to this, I think back on a Sunday morning brunch my wife and I enjoyed years ago in a Portland Café.  It was upscale and sunny.  And we were visiting with my wife’s Uncle, a retired architect.  And somehow the conversation turned to religion and he suggested that wasn’t going to church a waste of time?  He pointed out that couldn’t the time be much better spent in doing some social work that would actually help someone?  His eyes showed concern.

‘And that’s what we’re doing now?’  I laughed to myself, as I enjoyed the fresh coffee.

 

“What do the people who aren’t attending Church do with their Sunday mornings?”  I might have asked, sharing his concern.  “Do they consume a big breakfast?  Do they sleep in?  Do they visit friends?  Do they go duck hunting and blast a couple birds?  Or maybe snag a fish and smack them on the head?  Do they watch the pregame festivities on TV?  Maybe work in the yard, or catch up on some home repairs?  Or maybe they read the New York Times?  Or maybe they are still up drinking beers?”

 

But the larger – more serious – point my wife’s Uncle was dancing around was “what in the world does going to Church on Sunday morning actually accomplish?  How does this make us more successful?  How does this make other people’s lives more rich and meaningful?  Does God listen?  Will it change anything even if He does?  Isn’t it possible that this whole ‘God’ thing is just one big shame and that they are all just wasting their Sunday mornings over there blowing smoke?

 

People without faith can’t understand that the foundation of faith is doubt.  Attacking the faithful only makes them stronger.  People like my wife’s Uncle are actually the shoulders that the religious stand on.  (Look at me.  Here I am!)

 

Because doing things to no purpose is actually a spiritual activity.  And the Devil just hates this sort of thing.

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 22, 2013

Achieving Mediocrity II

Beverly Hillbillies

Locating Failure, and then Adjusting Slightly Upwards

            Which brings us to the, “How to…”

Let’s start with failure.  So often people shy from failure, or are so preoccupied in shunning it, or ‘distancing’ themselves from failure, that they never really stop to take a good look at it.  If this sounds like you, then there are a lot of surprises in store.

The first surprise is that most of the people you may categorize as failures, really aren’t very good at it.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise as many people are not very good at anything.  That said though, most failures you will see suffer for their failures, but have never really explored or exploited its opportunities.  They latch onto their little thread of failure and ride it in as hidebound manner as any successful type might, except to their dismal ends.  They see problems and enemies everywhere.  They worry about what happened before, or what might happen again.  They are constantly afraid of being ‘found out’.  They are hidebound, close-minded, stuffy, stilted, puffed up, snooty, completely paranoid, worn-out from excessive posturing, and possessed by envy.

A successful failure embraces what they are!  They turn a blind eye to difficulties.  They see opportunities everywhere. (Because there are!)  They admit to no limitations.  (Because there aren’t!)  Everywhere is a bowl of cherries. They act like a complete fool! and are nobody’s victim.  They don’t ask the government’s help.  They are free of envy.  And they are just fine on their own, thank you.  Though they’ll certainly take whatever’s offered, because they are not proud!  The best failures don’t ask anybody for anything, because a good failure lives in the now.  And right now, they’re still breathing, so anything could happen!

A good failure just trundles on, oblivious, explaining every setback as at worst a detour, and at best, a fortunate intervention.  Because life is on the failure’s side, and the failure sees himself in the lead position because he is alive!  Always!  …while a lot of things aren’t.  Because the very successful failure bumbles along, “forgetting, mislaying, losing, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing”… all the while engaging, cooperating, chatting, visiting, and doing surprising things!  In short, fully engaged in living a charmed existence.  For it is only sound reasoning to presume that a true failure leads a charmed existence.  Because what other rational could explain their continued existenceIf there is anyone who fully embraces the presence of God, it is the fool and the failure.  And a good failure will bless his charmed existence and not embrace any golden calves.  In this respect, the true failure is faithful and monogamous – a near saint.

 

But it is very hard to fail at everything and yet not to have found a little success at something.  That’s just the way it is!  And it is these small successes which your common, garden variety failure quilts into a livelihood.

The true failure lives a small existence, but often in the midst of thriving success.  Successful people have an incredible need for failures all around themselves, and they have the money to pay for it.  They hire and delegate and presume upon supernumeraries all over the place.  All of which creates a thriving market for affable supernumeraries, a position for which the failure and his persona the ‘fool’ is eminently qualified.

Another aspect of failure many people do not recognize is that it is an enduring position.  A comic, who passed through town, shared that she made up for the breaks in her career by working as a lowly aid to the disabled.  “Because they will ‘always hire you’”.  A good failure just goes on and on like the Eveready Bunny – the world, as it is, displays a continuing need for them.

Failures are like the little beetle who captures a little water from the morning dew as condensate on his wings, a little water from the vegetation he chews, and quite some protection from the thick carapace he labors under as he trudges around under a blistering desert sun where few others can live.  The failure locates a place of little or no competition, and finds a way to make themselves comfortable, living on God’s bounty.  They arrange their modest existence well away from the frenetic world of successes.  Whenever the successful get too close, so as to oppress them, they make quite a show of their failures to drive the predatory successful away.  “No money to be made here!” The successful shriek.  And it works well.  The successful can’t seem to distance themselves from failure quickly enough.  And in this way, failures share many of the same defenses as the skunk or our small, unsung  beetle.

Whenever a successful failure speaks, it’s usually with humor, because humor is idiosyncratic and subversive.  Most humor in one way or another utilizes the banana peel – to pratfall the predatory successful.  Success is reiterative, and vulnerable to the vagaries of life as a machine.  Whereas a failure’s humor and persona is as agile as a cat, and all the more reason for failures to employ it.

A real failure can be quite a funny and engaging character.  Most good stories employ them.  But if you would rather hear a person blow about themselves all day, in a continual, reiterative manner, then you’d be better to pick the successful for a drinking companion, or get hired by some high powered firm.  A failure doesn’t much like to talk about themselves, except in a self-deprecating manner, so as to add a little flourish to their stink.  They’d much rather the spotlight shown elsewhere… perhaps on the scenery chewing success!   All they would really like is your respect.

Which, unfortunately, is hard to come by – unless we’re on the same page here.

 

Which is why I suggest locating failure – find that inner fool! – and then just back yourself off a bit, until you have found just that level of income and respect necessary for your comfort – but not a jot more.  Don’t let those lunatic over-achievers grind you down, or shut you up!  Leave yourself open to life, and parade your failures and your mediocrity – don that fool’s cap and bells – capture a little of that morning dew, sniff that morning air, gaze out upon that great blue horizon!  and motor on.  The world is yours.

Photo by Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 18, 2013

Where we talk about anything that passes through my gol’ durned mind…

Sky8

Achieving Mediocrity

“When trouble arises, quickly roll up into the posture of a failure.”

 

            Mediocrity gets a bad rap.  Its word roots mean ‘halfway up a mountain’.  The word mediocre is used to denote moderate ability or value.  In other words, you’re right in the middle of the herd.

But what does this mean?  Well, halfway up the mountain is just above the tree line where all the grasses and flowers grow.  You’re successful enough to get fed.  There are lots of others around.  You’re safe, protected by numbers.  But you’re enough of a failure to enjoy the freedom of nursing an odd idea, preoccupation, or interest with relative impunity.  Why, no one of importance is following what you’re up to.

Prince Harry dresses up for fun in Nazi memorabilia, and he gets called on it big time.  However, mediocrities get away with this sort of misbehavior all the time.  Mediocrities come and go pretty much as they please.  It’s like having a universal passport.  If you are mediocre you have your work, and your vacation and your family and your car and boat – and your venal sins – you might even harbor a few mortal sins, plus a little free time.  You don’t have it all.  But having it all requires a lot of expensive upkeep and safe keeping.  You have a bit of everything, and no obligatory posturing.  A mediocre person can more or less just let themselves go.

Being mediocre is about as close to enjoying the perks of failure as the average prudent Joe can afford to be.  He’s neither pious, nor afflicted with chancres.  He’s neither a drunken sot, nor abstemious.  He’s neither a fool nor a genius.  If he has made any remarkable achievement at all, it might be in acquiring no small amount of common sense, humility, and tolerance for others, all the while enjoying him or herself, more or less… that is, pretty much so, and not expecting any more.  Self-supporting, procreative, relaxed and affable, the mediocrity has a lot of common, garden variety achievements to be proud of, plus a bit of time which he sometimes spends helping others, or raising kids.

If the mediocrity has any special ability, it is usually employed in a supporting role.  As they say in the halls of Congress, “There is no end to what you can accomplish here, if you don’t want to take credit for it.”  This is very true of life in general, all of which means and offers fertile soil for the mediocre and the unsuccessful.

The successful mediocrity takes advantage.  There’s hardly any other word for it.  The obviously successful are vulnerable.  There’s hardly anything more true that could be said about obviously successful people than that they need an enormous support staff… lots and lots of underlings.  These successful people need a lot of other people helping and assisting them with their work and all their trappings; helping them to get on with their lives.  The normal successful person is a virtual living cripple, honed to a razor’s edge to excel in a very narrow range of endeavor, like a supersonic jet.  They can’t be used to just taxi off to the store, or to hammer a nail, or much of anything else!

The obviously successful person is so cocooned in the frenetic network of whatever it is they are pursuing, that they rarely have the time or inclination to inquire or follow-up on wherever or whatever their underlings are doing.  It is enough that they do ‘it’, whenever ‘it’ is required.  So, whereas the successful person has to be mindful of many, many things, the mediocrity has to be mindful of only one, or at the most two.  This can be quite relaxing and the mediocrity can live a long life, while employed well enough to enjoy much of life.  And if, or when, trouble arises, they can quickly roll up into the posture of a failure, and pass as unnoticed as a “block, a stone, or some senseless thing”.

As Charles Bukowski, the poet, advised:  “Don’t try so hard.”

Photo by Carl Nelson


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