The Road to Greatness

Old Halls Harbour NS

Old Halls Harbour NS

The Road to Greatness. That’s what this post is not about.

‘Achievement’ is a word familiar to the realm of art and creativity. Achievement is painted to be the ultimate goal. Achievement really never answers the question “Why?”

Why do you paint? Why do you write? Why do you sing? Is it for achievement sake?

Strangely enough I came across three separate interviews today that were all linked thematically in an unusual way. One was about a young child actress who confessed to feeling so isolated and alone while others looked on her success with envy. The next one dealt with the stress and pressure we humans feel and have always felt relative to our culture  due to being overworked, strung out and burnt out to the point of melancholy and depression. These latter ill effects are often praised in our achievement driven societies. Finally I caught some radio discussion on the joy of being content with being average. Many called in to confirm their increase in satisfaction with life when they finally decided to let go of some unrealistic  targets they had aimed for in earlier years. I never heard any of these articles in their entirety but just enough to piece together an overall lesson for myself.

I think , as an artist and yes, also as a person, I have longed for a time when life becomes an easier coast to success. It seems that without clearly defining a goal one expects a certain life of ease and to be able to float in one’s own success. I mean success in a more financial sense here.

For instance this summer I sold  several prints of my work however I did not sell out. I think in the bottom of my heart or in the back of my brain there was this longing for the euphoric success that would mean all of my prints would have sold out. It didn’t happen, of course.

That does not mean that success was not achieved but it does mean that my vision and view of how life itself should have unraveled was different. I know for a fact that purchasers were delighted with my work and it will be impacting their lives  in a positive way for years to come. Art, by the way, has the power to do that.

What I’m trying to describe is that feeling we all have that someday if we try hard enough we will reach a peak or plateau for which we will find greatness and thereby happiness.  But the summit does not bestow upon us joy. For many it will only egg us on ( sometimes miserably) to yet another higher, loftier goal.

For most of us, in time, we realize that those achievements lie as ruins like some ancient Babylonian ziggurat; a tower of Babel that has eroded into the sand from whence it came.

The Road of Greatness, I think, is the one we want to be on. It is that road that at all points finds us comfortable with who we are and being authentically defined as just who we are at any year, month decade or day.

Do we give up striving for greatness? Yes. Perhaps the road of greatness is more of self improvement rather than being reliant on the praise and accolades of strangers. That road seems to leave us as strangers to our own selves.

At 52 and closing in on 53 years of age I still feel that I have learned so little of what life is really about. I know, though, that with each year material possessions for the most part weigh us down as we trek this road. Perhaps the  death of vain wishes brings about the beginning of a release toward true wisdom.

I know now that seeking true greatness is not something to be attained but rather, realized…right now in the moment.

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Arrived

EveningGoose2013WPprint

I have yet to meet an artist who doesn’t want to be successful.  So I began thinking on this whole question of success.  It would seem everybody wants some kind of success. Imagine how hilarious it would be to watch an artist who actually set out to be a miserable failure.  This would be a great idea for a comedy play or film. Maybe it’s already been done.  If not  I want royalties for the idea, ha.

A lot of artists are, I think , perfectionists.  They want to get it right. Your art is an expression of something core to your being.  You want it to be just perfect for yourself and others.

We live in ( or just after) an age of rampant consumerism. Anything that has value is seen to be worth so much in a dollar amount.  That’s fine, …maybe, but not everything that has value, worth or success has a dollar amount.

When you were born people didn’t hover over you in the delivery room bartering over how much you were worth in dollars. You were that ‘bundle of joy’ without a price!  You were worth the world to someone regardless of any deformities or ‘short-comings’.  Someone saw you as a success!

Money, like applause, is one way people have come to show their appreciation for something they like. Unfortunately artists can get caught up in thinking they are never a success if they don’t sell a certain amount of art or don’t make enough money selling their art.

People sometimes misunderstand me when I mention money.  They think I’m saying you shouldn’t sell art because that would be vulgar or we don’t need money or jobs to eat.  I’ve never said that or intended that meaning.

I’ve been reading a bit here and there about how there is a new focus on being happy about who and where you are in life…today.  This makes sense to me because if we spend our entire lives saying we will only be ” happy when_____” we will likely never find true happiness. Nobody knows how long we have to be on this earth so why say that you’re never a success until you can live off of your art sales or have created ‘X’ amount of work?

The best way , I think, is to understand that your worth as an artist is intrinsic.  We all want to improve, no doubt. Living is learning. Understanding that in one sense you are a success now; that you have already arrived is key to understand that success is something you already have achieved.

Thanks for visiting!!