“Remember: you will never earn the same rewards as others without employing the same methods and investment of time as they do. It is unreasonable to think we can earn rewards without being willing to pay their true price. The person who “wins” at something has no real advantage over you because they had to pay the price for the reward.”
— Epictetus, A Manual for Living
There are times we can feel the overwhelming power of jealous and the great sense of failure when we size ourselves up with others who are deemed “successful.” Normally, I’m on my best guard when I let my own thoughts react to these situations but it was a special combination of “highly specialized individual” and the “undying thirst for knowledge.”
Then again, a good verbal barrage and the art of hijacking the conversation so you are the center of all things are usually what sells it home, especially giving it a few days to think about. To be honest, it started off as a friendly sharing of knowledge of literature and the love of books. I deeply wanted to get into the concepts and ideas of how stories are so great. It was on the topic of Russian literature (outside of popular culture, I knew little first hand) and French literature.
When it got to French literature, my brain connected towards to a recent purchase of The Count of Monte Cristo and how I wanted to see if this other person had read it and had an opinion of what the interwebs were saying about the new translation from Penguin Books was recommended as the best to read. I had only gotten the Modern Library version so… I wanted an answer if it was still worth it.
I never got that answer.
I wanted to share my own quest to read Proust and how difficult it was to stay in the stream-of-consciousness of whatever the fuck is happening in the first book — Swann’s Way – which is also a newer edition from Penguin Classics. This one being highly recommended because many other readers say that Lydia Davis got the translation and feel of the original down. The best thing I’m loving/loved (as it’s an on and off affair) about this book is how great it is to just pick it up and go… even if it’s about years since I last read apart from it (I admit I’m still stuck around 50 pages in).
Strange enough, bringing up Proust made this other silent and lack any input before twisting it into a direction of talking about one’s university history and the fellow colleagues who worked on translating literature and then it somehow returned to the backstory of growing up in an immersion school.
Anyway, it was a lovely conversation, even though it wasn’t as balanced as I would assume. It was always pulled into topics that suited the other – keeping them constantly as the source of knowledge. As you know, knowledge is power and it sure locks on the direction of the conversation really well. I tried but I knew we were too different to attempt it. But it did give me the sense of the inadequacy of my own interests and knowledge.
Just enough to knock me out of focus. Here was an equivalent individual who had the right sets of verbal skill and the great combination of talent and love of their own work. Totally consumed and in control. But it was the love that got to me. It was the pureness that made me feel not so much as jealous but… guilty in my own pursuits.
I am probably more representative of the “jack of all trades, master of none is better than one” model but a little heavy on the film/writing/surrealist comedy parts. I’ve got my own curiosities deep in studying world religions and particular parts of Eastern Philosophy – particularly, Zen Buddhism. I have my new interests in stoicism. There are even studying up on the other side of the argument of the existence of God and the meaning of life. Broader strokes but completely in a different field than the language developmental studies… something I had some tastes in, but a credit shy of an obtaining a minor.
There are my own dabbles in the history of martial arts and being fascinated by the folklore of war history… that is now leading me back to the texts of Art of War and the Book of Five Rings.
The sad truth is that I am no expert but I have enough to get me through what I need to do or say. But just having that general hobby-like knowledge isn’t enough. It’s time to really dig my heels in and push forward and go to the next level. This is what they were talking about when those self-help books or whatever source you want to reference mentioned that you have to surround yourself with people who are doing MUCH BETTER than you. That way, you can keep your ego in check and shake up some guilt to make a choice between wallowing in the embarrassment of not being able to contribute to that conversation OR learn to accept and be proud and happy for them.
They paid the price for obtaining their thing. They didn’t beat us but their example should show us that a little more time in doing and working on our craft will pay off.
That’s all I want: executing a better system to perfect my process.
So, this holiday is the perfect time to just do that. Go back to the drawing board and figure out and implement a better way to expand my knowledge, actively pursue better career opportunities, and continue churning out words in a system that doesn’t ask for impossible goals or discourages you from even trying.
It’s all about the process. The journey. The life experience and the relationships you meet along the way. The art of play compared to the life of endless work.
I know it’ll be tough but it’ll be good. I can feel a glimpse of that joy as I finish up this post, regardless of how it may be received because I know I love trying to express myself and I know many of you are trying to do that too. So, I want to let you know that you should be proud of your efforts and that I’m proud and happy that you’re doing it.
Let’s keep on DOING IT.
Now, time for an unrelated song that wants to do it but for different reasons:
Merry Christmas if you celebrate it and Happy Holidays to all!