Witnessing the extremely gifted at their work has the strange effect of simultaneously inspiring one to attempt to join them in what they’re doing (because they make it look effortless), and provoking one to quit one’s own efforts in that field (because one is made so painfully aware of how bad one actually is).
I was reminded of this not so long ago when hearing John Piper preach, which is both a spellbinding experience in person, and also immensely discouraging to someone whose profession is in large measure based on public speaking, as mine is.
I was reminded of this principle again some days ago when hearing a friend and his band perform. Derek’s sound is like a mixture of Jeff Buckley and Jack Johnson, and his obvious quality made me wish I had the stuff to be a performer. As I lack just about everything that is needed to be a rockstar, I decided to settle for thinking about why I couldn’t witness talent without wanting to have it for myself, and why it is that Derek isn’t famous yet.
The first issue is probably fairly simple. As with all things human, our desires are a tangled mess of the good and the evil. I want to be a rockstar because I’m jealous of the attention and praise that such people receive. And I want to be a musician because it is hard to be a human worthy of that name without a deep love for beauty, and witnessing beauty should legitimately provoke in us a wish to participate in it.
As for achieving fame, that’s not so easy to understand. Getting the attention of the public is something that countless unworthy people achieve and many great talents fail to do. Becoming famous probably is a combination of skill, timing and a generous helping of luck. The best one can do is to work hard, I suppose, because as someone once said, ‘The more I practice the luckier I get’. Or you could get yourself killed during a late-night swim in all your clothes, which did wonders for Jeff Buckley’s career. Continue reading