Tuesday, February 19, 2013


"We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess." - Mark Twain

On one level, Mark Twain's quote calls out a measure of vanity that is indeed inherent in the human condition, doesn't it?  We all have a certain number of talents, after all, but--well, isn't Joe's talent, what he's showing off over there, cool?  I mean, I could do just as well at it, if I were over there too.  He's good, but so am I, and you'd know it if only I had the opportunity....

At another level, though, I think the quote speaks to an innate self-deprecation and judgmentalism that is also part of who we are as a race.  

Have you ever watched a child perform?  Kids are naturally proud of themselves.  They belch, and they're proud of it.  They sing, and they're proud of it regardless of how perfectly it's pitched.  Heck, they're often even proud of their own poop.  Right up to the point, that is, where an adult tells them that it stinks. 


And so we enter this developmental stage where we're not sure of ourselves, largely because we've learned to be judgmental of our own efforts in order to save ourselves from the sharp pointiness of the judgment of others.  For many, that judgmental stage lasts way past our teenage years.  It's why you hear people with perfectly capable lungs and vocal cords say "oh, I can't sing."  At the same time, people with perfectly good fingies say "I can't write." 

Yes, yes you can.  You can sing.  You can write.  You may not be great at it at first, but if you were, that would be the abnormal case.

But are you talented at it?

See, that's the hard thing.  Talent is very much in the eye of the beholder.  Some people say Picasso was a talented--heck, brilliantly so--painter, while I'd rather look at a Kincaid any day.  Some people don't like Mozart much, but it's like music to my ears.

*ahem*  I break similes with abandon sometimes.  Did I warn you about that earlier?  I think I did.

The point is, though, that talent often follows effort, and as such it should be acknowledged and celebrated rather than shirked in favor of other stuff in life.  If you're talented at something, accept it.  Heck, brag about it.

You earned it.


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