There is a line in a children's movie that is devastating, almost brutal.
A father is attempting to explain his perpetually unemployed status to his son. The father has visions and dreams of inventing and creating, but lacks the business sense and more importantly, the discipline to see any of his many projects through to the finish. However, he is confident, he tells his son, that the big break is just around the corner.
"What if you're wrong?" asks the son, "-and you're just an ordinary guy who should get a job?"
Mercifully, the movie was not based on a true story. I shouldn't wish to speculate on how painful a blow such as this would be to a real father's pride.
But the question is a good one.
It can be applied in another sense to myself.
(I'm afraid I won't be dealing with the question of whether the man was irresponsible or not. In fact, it may seem to you that I have taken my text and departed from it, but it is in the following bed that my thoughts flowed.)
Is it normal for a man to feel stifled by the confines of an every-day job, normal to be shamed when the knowledge of his name and accomplishments are limited to a small circle of family and friends?
(If only there were not that odd moment singing in the shower when one feels his voice to be quite on par with any number of celebrated vocal artists, or that singular instant of brilliance that leads a man to privately place his intelligence on a level with, if not the President, then at very least his second-in-command. And having opened that can of worms, I shall leave it for another time.)
I suspect it is fairly universal, that feeling that if one had the proper venue in which to display his talent, if the talent scout were in the right place at the right time, that the world would be advised of his, or, to some lesser extent, her, greatness.
(Maybe I should expand on that previous statement. I meant that women tend to be less distracted with delusions of grandeur, and, on the whole, perhaps less insecure than the average male.)
I'm not arguing for a lowering of the bar. I am not even suggesting a healthy dose of reality. For reality is as real for those in high places as those in low.
I am suggesting that those daydreams have the potential to distract us from actually doing anything, even the smallest thing, with the talents or gifts we have been given.
To speculate on this level, I must make an assumption. I must assume that most men are as stricken with delusions of grandeur as I am. What is so disagreeable about being one of the unnumbered masses who turn the cogs of the country. What is so horrible about being unknown? (On an ill-advised venture I Googled my name. . . .discovered I share it with a feminist leaning country singer, a late pop artist, and a horror movie director.)
I cannot accept such a purgatory. Never mind that I am doing little to escape it, it is the sentence of perpetuity I can't bear. A man might find himself staring into open space with little or no prospect or motivation for anything else, but he will surely start into activity and come into energy if he is told he may not do anything else.
You'll find the dream of greatness in every pocket of the world. Whether it be those moved to action; reality show contestants, open audition participants or garage bands, or the larger population of those merely leaving open the possibility; online gamers, bloggers, or shower performers. There are Montanas on every field, Sosas on every diamond, Gretskys on every ice, Jordans on every court, and even Fast Eddies in every vanishing pool hall across the country. A man may be and undoubtedly is, somewhere, as proud of his precision in chopping wood as is many a fine celebrated wordsmith of his literary exaction. I once knew a man as immensely proud of his ability to make masonry cuts with a hammer as Bell, Perlman or Ma might be of their prowess with a bow.
I became concerned with this alternate reality when it occurred to me, as intimated in the movie, that this could be as much a sign of immaturity as any portent of greatness. After all, what little boy has not rode with the Lone Ranger or fought alongside Daniel Boone? So is it that our fantasies simply age with us? Coming into manhood, are we not to put away childish things?
Is it a vestige of a peculiar pride, a private egomaniacal hold-over from boyhood, or, is it the whisper of potential, the instinct of purpose and meaning?
The answer to this all-important question may be found in a closer examination of the dream that grips you. Is it that you envy the position of those distinguished in your area of interest, or is your propensity a true fascination, or even involuntary?
I think it simplistic to prophesy the failure of mere ambition and the success of altruistic servitude, unless you are weighing the eternal implications. I have known those who have excelled in their chosen field even to positions of distinction, (some that particularly stand out to me in the pursuit of theology) that I have privately suspected of having gratuitous, if unconscious, designs. And it may well be that a true gift of God would then be corrupted by self-serving goals, but if you question whether your idle visions have a genuine purpose, it is well to consider whether it is something you wish to do or wish to have done.
I can tell you this honestly. It is not delusions of grandeur that prompts me to write, and transcribes odd occurrences or scenes I observe into paradoxical metaphors or descriptive sentences. It may or may not be a simple outgrowth of a love of reading and an admiration for certain writers, but it is absolutely compulsory.
Is it a simple human frailty especially peculiar to men, or the unheeded quiet call of purpose from a Creator?
The answer is anything but universally applicable, and is answered only individually.
Now about that can of worms . . .
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