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.