Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pursuit of greatness

Dec. 14, 1985

I’m tired again, existing coffee and too little sleep, and certainly not enough money -- nothing but bleary-eyed stumbling from this job to that.
This I suppose is the dues one pays, working into greatest – or even mediocrity.
Lenny Lopate on the radio last night spoke painfully of his bout with art, a serious student once, three credits away from his masters, over 40 now and disillusioned. He talked about making a mark on the world and bitterly said now he never would, even when others called up commenting on his remarkable observations on art, on must, and on most things.
He often puts himself down, especially after he’s made some valid points. He often qualifies his statements with “I’m not sure what point I’m making here.”
He seems to believe he will make no mark on the world and wonders if that’s a bad thing, if greatness seems to be the objective of everyone, or is it enough just to go on living.
What struck a nerve in me was his description of those who seek to obtain greatness (and of those who try and fail, but keep on trying). Obsession, a sense of self importance, a need to find immortality and have an effect on the world.
I’m not sure which one of these I am – the future success or future failure.
But I have all the ingredients to go on. I go through depressions and never have enough time to finish what needs to be done. Not enough craft to make things work the way I want.
It takes time and energy to learn the craft, to put one words after another in a logical and pre-planned progression. And for some, it never comes, for some; there is self delusion about effect their work will have.
With work, I feel good and feel real progression, always making progression, always learning enough to take the next step, as of what I am currently working on is merely an exercise, even though I might not be aware of it at the time. Some times, the work is completely inspired.
Shakespeare, I suppose, had these moment, too, when he felt right putting brilliant speech in the mouth of an idiot.
“Some aspire to greatness; others have greatness thrust upon them.
But I suspect truth is more devious and that one works and works, hoping for greatness, hoping that the magic spark touching the work as you move along, making the parts come together, beyond craft, beyond inspiration, when body and soul touches you for the briefest moment to give your work real life.
Joyce described this as radiance.
But to strive for magic is folly. One simply builds the house in the most appropriate manner possible, using all the most solid materials with the hope the spirit might move in, that the house weathers, serving generation after generation as Shakespeare’ houses have, finally realizing greatness. If you’re lucky, you might realize that greatness in your life. Most don’t.

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