Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nothing Much

There is a weekly radio program on NPR that my wife is fond of.
Besides Car Talk, I mean.
"From The Top" is a procession of young musicians and occasional vocalists distinguished by their ability especially in light of their age. Some of these kids are 11 years old and can polish off pieces by Mozart that I can't begin to even understand, let alone follow, let alone play.
One Saturday evening as we sat listening to some flawless movement or other, I asked Devan if these kids ever got on her nerves.
These prodigies are often accomplished not only in their chosen music field, but in several other areas as well; academia, athletics, arts . . . and that's just the a's.
I admire people distinguished in one particular field. But when that genius undertakes another venture and succeeds brilliantly and yet another and another, I begin to become annoyed.
It has been my contention that you will excel in an area only because you care deeply about it, and I am puzzled as to how these wunderkinds can possibly care so deeply about so many different things.
What drives them?
. . . See? By framing the question in such a way I reveal an assumption that they are being propelled as opposed to being drawn after something. Because I simply cannot conceive of such ambition and I'm immediately suspicious of it.
What mad thirst for validation or fame drives these maniacs?
I cannot obsess about more than one thing.
If I'm walking, I'm walking. If I'm chewing gum, I'm chewing gum.
And, to my shame, having a forty-five to fifty hour work week seems to preclude any other serious endeavors.
On one hand, I'm philosophical. I don't envy most highly successful people because I know that success is proportionate to the amount of life poured into it.
The ubiquitous success icons of our culture, doctors, lawyers, and CEO's work constantly until they are sixty and by then have often lost all sense of priority and spend their twilight years repenting their lifelong pursuits.
On the other hand, when I'm not obsessing about something else, I feel a little guilty.
At least a hamster on a wheel has an excuse. He has no place else to go. Besides, he's getting in shape.
I know, Confucius say "Choose a job you like, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
But I can't help thinking we've been snookered on that quote.
I firmly believe some snake-oil self-help guru crammed those words into the late Asian philosopher's pudgy mouth and then pulled them back out again in some New York Times Best Seller.
After all, what was there to do when Confucius walked among us? Or sat among us.
There were few superfluous occupations back in 500 B.C. So, aside from the remote possibility that every one in China actually wanted to be either a fisherman or a farmer, or, if you were lucky, another corpulent philosopher, this ancient wisdom is about as helpful the modern admonition to "Don't Worry, Be Happy," or about as inspiring as those mass-produced scenery photos with one word captions such as "Dream," "Cooperation," or "Goals."

The above rambling is an attempt to push past a bad case of blogger's block.
This is what happens when you ignore road signs and forge ahead.