Wishers and woulders be small householders. (Voltaire)
The other day I was accused of being “smart.” Now under ordinary circumstances this would have caused my ego meter to raise above the safe zone. And why not? All my life I have wanted to be seen as “smart.” My father, although uneducated, was seen as “smart.” My younger brother was quite well educated and seen as “smart.” But for me? I have always seen myself as “dumb” and “slow,” having almost no memory or ability to concentrate. So being called “smart” by someone who values intelligence greatly should well have boosted my snob level significantly.
But it didn’t.
When I rode the bicycle around the country (I’ve written of these elsewhere) I often heard: “I wish I could just take off and ride wherever I want like you do.”
When I was an artist I heard: “I wish I could draw and paint like you do.”
I have had people say: “I wish I knew computers like you do.”
And lately I have heard: “I wish I could write like you do.”
I can do anything. I’ve said this before. It’s not an ego trip I’m on that causes me to say this; it’s merely a fact. For the first 30 years of my life I thought (and was told) that I couldn’t do anything right. And I firmly believed that what I was told was correct. And so I never tried to do anything for fear of the inevitable failure.
Then I discovered fencing. In fencing I didn’t excel, but I did quite well with my limited experience.
And then the bicycle, where again I started from nothing, to achieving a fair record of accomplishments. Again, not the most or the best, but far more than the average.
I discovered that whatever I set my mind to, I could do very well, and in some cases, if compared to the norm rather than the superior, I could excel. This is a far cry from the boy who thought he could do nothing.
But not everything could I do. I couldn’t play a musical instrument. Even in my 60's music was a great barrier, and at the same time a great attraction to me.
At 65 I set out to conquer music. I’ve spoken of this elsewhere, I will only say I now play the banjo, the guitar, the harmonica, the flute, the piano, as well as a few others. In other words, music is another area I can “do.” None of these can I do well, mind you, but I can play to my own satisfaction.
“I sure wish I could play the guitar like you do,” I say to those who play so well. And why do I wish I could play like they do? Because I can’t.
Above I said I can do anything. Yet here I say I can’t play like others who are proficient at their craft can play. Yet those I admire may very likely feel very deficient in their ability when they compare themselves to others they themselves admire and seek to emulate.
Now why is it that this youngster (as young as five years old) can play so well, and I, much older and with so much knowledge and abilities, can’t? Don’t our abilities increase as we grow older? Don’t we become wiser as we mature physically? Isn’t that the rule of nature? And therefore, if I wait long enough, I will be able to do all things?
Sometimes we think like that, and books are sold by the millions telling us we can think our way to success. But thinking such things can at best only bring us frustration and cause us a headache.
Practice is what causes that five year old to play better than the 50 year old. Lots of practice.
“I sure wish I could play like you do.” If I stop wishing, and begin playing, I could learn to play like he or she does.
And so could you.
For the last 18 years I have pretty well dedicated my energies to writing, and little else. Music I only dabble at now and then, and so my music sounds like all I am doing is dabbling. I enjoy what little I do, and that is all that matters to me. If I spent as much time at music as I do at writing, I could be great. I know this from past experiences. But music is not the interest in my life, only a very small part of an interest.
Writing on the other hand is what I am all about. I spend almost all my time writing, researching, and working on my websites and my blogs. This is who I am. I ride the bike, but I am not a bike rider any longer. I play musical instruments, but I am not a musician. I paint a little now and then, but I am no longer an artist. This is true of teaching, car restoring, Indian culture and crafts, fencing and other areas I have concentrated on in the past. They are still a part of me to one degree or another, but none are “who I am.”
I am a writer.
“I wish I could write like you do.”
I am slow. I think slow. My memory is so poor I can’t tell you what I just finished writing, or very often (as I reread what I have written), who wrote the piece because I have very little knowledge in the area that was written about.
As I review what I have written I am often amazed at the skill and the apparent understanding of the subject under consideration. This sounds like ego, but is in fact far from it. When I write all my energy goes into my writing. I type slow and poorly, making so many mistakes that quite often as I edit a piece I am unable to discern what I was trying to say when I wrote it, and that might have been but minutes before. And my spelling is so bad, that without Spell Checker my writing would be unreadable.
A huge portion of my time is spent in a dictionary, a thesaurus, and on the web researching material or searching for just the right word or phrasing to use. I am lousy in English, and my grammar is exceptionally poor. Someone well acquainted with these areas already knows this to be true. Others who are not so well versed in grammar may well think I have a good grasp on these areas. I assure you, I’m merely “faking” it. Or, to put it more accurately, I am doing the very best I can, but I realize that my limitations prevent my finished work from being all it should be. It may be better than most people can do, but only because most people do not spend the time and effort it takes to write articles such as these. They just wish they could.
Over the years I have not been able to improve my ability to concentrate, or to remember, or to organize my studies as they should be. But there is one area I have been able to grow, and that is in my honesty. It’s not so much that I can be honest with you, that is a subjective matter. But where it is most important, that is to be honest with myself, this I have learned.
Above I said that I have great limitations when it comes to writing. In the physical area I am fairly normal. Far from superior, but normal. Because of this I was able to ride the bicycle long distances; slow, but fairly far. But like anyone else, when I do not ride, my body gets used to not riding, and in a week or two I find myself wondering if I will make it back home because my muscles have atrophied to such a degree. Should someone who is athletically inclined at all try to ride along side of me, even when I was at my best, they would leave me in their dust. I was not superior at what I was doing. But I was the one doing it, and that is what made the difference between me and almost everyone else.
This is true of my writing as well. I have great limitations, as I have said before. If someone without those limitations were to cease wishing, and start doing, they would find what I have been saying is true, that I am sorely lacking in ability.
Because of this recognition of my lack, and the awareness that I have to struggle to achieve whatever I attempt, it keeps me from feeling egotistic when my work is praised. I know that anyone else could do the same, and even better, and certainly much faster and more efficiently if they set their mind to it. The difference is, I am doing it, instead of just a wishing.
I began this piece by stating that my ego was not effected by the accusation that I was: “Smart.” In fact, rather than feeling proud, I was a bit concerned. Elsewhere I have spoken about the many thousands of “clicks” on my websites each month. My thought was (at the time of being called smart): Is it because people see me as “smart” that they are checking out my website? If this is the case, I see a problem. My objective is not to impress people with my intelligence, or my writing ability, or even my powers of observation. In fact if everyone thought my writing stinks, and that I must be an idiot to think as I do, and to see the world as I do, that would suit me just fine. I neither need nor desire agreement or respect. Either of these will defeat my purpose. I want people to think! Agreement or acknowledgment of my abilities goes contrary to thinking. If either of these are looked upon, then people will likely either decide that what I have written is beneath them, or worse, they will choose to follow my thinking and agree with me accordingly. Agreement without serious consideration is the same as idiocy. And this is the very thing I am trying with all my knowhow to prevent: blind idiocy.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.” You have very likely heard this expression before.
My father was looked up to and respected by all. All, that is, except those of us who lived with him.
There is something about the unknown that attracts us mortals. When we see something that appeals to us we fill in the unknown with what we would like to be true. The more we know of a person, the less mystery remains, therefore the less wishful thinking can be utilized. Even Jesus experienced this phenomena when He returned to His home town. In spite of all the proofs he exhibited, the home folks rejected Him because they knew Him and His family. If this could happen to the Son of God, how much more so to someone at the other end of the spectrum such as myself?
People who know me, my friends and my family and all those I care most for, ignore my website and my writings. They know me. I present no mystery to them. Regardless of how much I care, or how much value these people place on my opinion, they ignore it because it comes from someone they can not imagine as being more than what he is. I do not mean to say they look down on me, in fact, in some cases, far from it. I may say exactly what they want, and need, to hear. But unless it is said by someone they know little about, they won’t give the words their due consideration.
That is one reason I remain anonymous. Another is for the reason I gave earlier, and that is to make sure I do not feed my ego rather than my purpose.