Silience (135 sec)


silience:

n. the kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around you every day, unremarkably—the hidden talents of friends and coworkers, the fleeting solos of subway buskers, the slapdash eloquence of anonymous users, the unseen portfolios of aspiring artists—which would be renowned as masterpieces if only they’d been appraised by the cartel of popular taste, who assume that brilliance is a rare and precious quality, accidentally overlooking buried jewels that may not be flawless but are still somehow perfect.

Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway.

Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway. Then, after nine years, failing at it and giving it up in disgust and moving to Englewood, N.J., and selling aluminum siding. And then, years later, trying the thing again, though it wrecks your marriage, and failing again. And eventually making a meticulous study of the thing and figuring out that, by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that. And then, after becoming better at it than anyone who had ever done it, realizing that maybe you didn’t need the talent. That maybe its absence was a gift.

These were the stations on the via dolorosa of Jacob Cohen, a.k.a. Rodney Dangerfield, whose comedy I hold above all others’. At his peak — look on YouTube for any set he did between 1976 and 1990 — he was the funniest entertainer ever. That peak was long in coming; by the time he perfected his act, he was nearly 60. But everything about Dangerfield was weird. While other comedians of that era made their names in television and film, Dangerfield made his with stand-up. It was a stand-up as dated as he was: He stood on stage stock-still in a rumpled black suit and shiny red tie and told a succession of diamond-hard one-liners.

The one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance. If there’s art about life and art about art, Dangerfield’s comedy was the latter — he was the supreme formalist. Lacking inborn ability, he studied the moving parts of a joke with an engineer’s rigor. And so Dangerfield, who told audiences that as a child he was so ugly that his mother fed him with a slingshot, became the leading semiotician of postwar American comedy. How someone can watch him with anything short of wonder is beyond me.

~ Alex Halberstadt, from “Letter of Recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield” (The New York Times, January 26 2018)

Salieri. It is not up to you whether you fly or fall.

amadeus-salieri

In Mozart’s music, Salieri recognizes something divinely inspired, absolute, and perfect. But what he hears ruins him. Confronted by this beauty beyond his ability to achieve, Salieri suffers his own talent and success in agony. “Thirty years of being called ‘distinguished’ by people incapable of distinguishing!” he cries, as the Viennese cheer him, while casually disregarding the genius in their midst. “If I cannot be Mozart then I do not wish to be anything.” He gets his wish. Mozart is posthumously declared immortal, and Salieri, still alive, is utterly forgotten, the patron saint of the undistinguished. In his last line, the old, discarded court composer addresses the modern audience directly, all those who, like him, are not worth listening to. “Mediocrities everywhere—now and to come—I absolve you all,” he says, sympathizing with our failure to be Mozart. […]

The Salieri that Shaffer created hears with the ears of history; he knows all along what only later listeners could know. When Mozart arrived in Vienna in 1781, his talent was obvious and undeniable, but his genius was still a matter of opinion. He wasn’t yet Mozart. Peter Shaffer stacked the deck against Salieri by giving his self-doubts the weight of historical certainty. Because Salieri knows Mozart is a genius, his own failure then seems inevitable. But the real weight that he and every artist—every person who strives for greatness—suffers is the weight of not knowing. You must find in yourself the courage to leap off the cliff. Yet it is not up to you whether you fly or fall.

~ Glen Kurtz, Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music


Image Credit: vjmorton

 

Matisse. Unplugged. And uncovered after 70 years.

Henri-Matisse-cut-outs

From Henri Matisse: The Lost Interview:

On August 5th 1946, two years after Paris was liberated from the Germans, a young American soldier named Jerome Seckler visited Henri Matisse. Seckler had a passion for modern art. He made it his mission to meet with, and interview, some of the leading French artists of the time: Matisse was on his list…The interview reveals Jerome to be keenly interested and articulate in the art of time, and Matisse to be a spirited foil to Seckler’s germane questioning. The transcript has been sitting neatly filed in a cardboard box for almost seventy years. Until now this interview has never been published.

Here’s one of my favorite Matisse quotes from the interview:

I think that art must not be a disagreeable thing. There is enough unhappiness in life to turn one towards the joy. One should keep the disagreeable, the unhappiness to himself. One can always find a pleasant thing. An unhappiness doesn’t remain. It makes experience. One doesn’t need to infect people with his annoyances. One should make a serene thing. One should make a stimulating art which leads the spirit of the spectator into a domain which puts him outside of his annoyances.

If you want a short cut to my favorites, and there are a lot of them, here are the links and a teaser to Matisse’s responses:

  • Commitment: I am not at ease. (My favorite. Must read.)
  • Peer Appreciation: Picasso was stunned into silence. “We sat there like stones,” Gilot later recalled.  (Picasso and Gilot watching him make cut-outs)
  • Soul: Those who will work with their soul, and the desire to express themselves will come out the best painters.
  • Critics: It is the result that counts. When I am very much criticized by a painter, I’ll say to him, put your work beside mine and we will see.
  • Talent: You can have all the strength, if you do not have the gifts you will not arrive…
  • Passion: Why make me make different things. I get into communication with nature. Why look elsewhere?
  • Art Appreciation: A man with money will appreciate a painting for the price but the man in the street will just like the painting because he will feel it is good even if he doesn’t know why.
  • Art, like Music: All music is made with seven notes. With that, one makes all the relations. Painting is the same.
  • Revolution: Myself also I live a continual revolution.
  • Approval: A chef doesn’t have to always ask for approval and to ask people to taste the plates that he prepares.
  • Desire: All the artists who began by being hungry and cold have made good painting.
  • Passion / Love: One must suffer for what one loves.

It’s worth your time to read the entire 3000 word transcript here: Henri Matisse: The Lost Interview.


Credits:

The Answer. Right Here.


“At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that — the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is … curiosity to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got that or not.”

~ William Faulkner, Press conference, University of Virginia, May 20, 1957


Tough Teachers Get Results (finally, some common sense)

Mr. K

“I had a teacher who once called his students ‘idiots’ when they screwed up…he made us rehearse until our fingers almost bled. He corrected our wayward hands and arms by poking at us with a pencil.  Today, he’d be fired. But when he died a few years ago, he was celebrated: Forty years’ worth of former students flew back to my New Jersey hometown from every corner of the country…I was stunned by the outpouring for the gruff old teacher…Some were musicians, but most had distinguished themselves in other fields…What did Mr. K do right?…Comparing Mr. K’s methods to the latest findings in fields from music to math to medicine leads to a single, startling conclusion:

It’s time to revive old-fashioned education.  

Not just traditional but old fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here’s the thing: It works…and the following eight principles – a manifesto if you will, a battle cry inspired by my old teacher and buttressed by new research – explain why:

[Read more…]

Talent < Table Salt?

talent and salt


Rebekah, thank you for sharing.

Related Posts:

If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree…

If your manager:

  1. ignores you — your chances of being actively disengaged are 40%
  2. focuses on your weaknesses — your chances of being actively disengaged are 22%
  3. focuses on your strengths — your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%.

Post Source: Steve Roesler, All Things Workplace: “Strengths, Weaknesses, and Engagement” cites Gallup Management Findings

Image Source: Brad Nash

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I’ve been wading (slowly) through this book.  The core principles in Chapter Four (“Leading People Talent to Teams”) keep returning to my consciousness long since I’ve blown threw this chapter.  Why?  Why does it keep drifting back to needle me?  Where does the time go in my day? What takes me away from my focus on my top performers?  Why haven’t I spent more time building my bench?  As they say, you can pay now or pay later.  This book is getting under my skin and moving up the rating scale.  Here’s a few excerpts from Chapter 4 of John Hamm’s book titled: Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required For the Practice of Great Leadership).

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The Talent Society…hmmmmmmmm

David Brooks is an exceptional columnist.  His work often leaves me scratching my head saying he did it again – he got it right.  In his editorial in today’s NY Times, he did it yet again.  I had so many mixed feelings (hi and lo) about The Talent Society, I had to share my favorite excerpts from today’s article.  (“Favorite” here being defined as the bulk of the article).  Powerful…read on…

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