Is excellence a thing of the past?  What’s the point of effort and achievement if no one but yourself values it?  

I remember my friend Jim telling a story -he had many- about his years in the music industry.  He had a near-brush with fame as a solo artist, but was eventually dropped by his record label because he held to his principles.  Instead of producing formulaic vomit upon which the label executives depended, he chose to explore musical expression which was definitely off the beaten track.

I was one of the few privileged to hear his sophomore effort, a trippy collection of ethereal musings and vicious social commentary that haunted me for weeks afterward.  It was brilliant.  And it had languished on a shelf somewhere in southern California for decades until he scraped together enough money to buy it back from the record company.

He recounted the fateful day when he first brought it to the company brass.  The nasty reactions of the CEO ranged from ridicule to the demo being thrown across the room, to the original tapes being deliberately locked in a vault and forgotten.  I was appalled… not by the juvenile behavior (which clearly is a nation-wide epidemic), but by the executive’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge something other than the mediocre. 

Jim was more philosophical.  He didn’t blame the fellow, the industry or his luck.  He said most people are operating from a very limited perspective.  They don’t comprehend that which is outside their understanding and therefore, only recognize their own.  Someone with wider vision might perceive that which is different and, even if it does not personally resonate with him, will acknowledge the effort and perhaps admire it as unique.

But not all innovators are shunned.  Why are some creative types like Bill Gates, Aaron Spelling or Thomas Edison celebrated and richly rewarded by their peers, while others like Mozart or Nikola Tesla are reviled?  Is there a dividing line which separates the mildly interesting and functional from the visionary and fantastic?

Human beings are practical creatures.  If some thing or idea cannot be immediately implemented, it’s usually cast aside until someone stumbles upon it years later and finds a use for it.  Then of course praise is heaped posthumously on the creator, especially if there are no estate or copyright liens, and the lucky soul who rediscovered it has his own name forever associated with it as well as all the riches that follow.  Nevermind that he had nothing to do with its invention; in our society, marketing is more important than creation. 

Think of all the gifted and talented people in your own life.  How many of them are living the life of Riley?  I wager very few.  Unless they have the benefit of intercessories (P.R., media consultants, marketers, or private fortune), they are probably as marginalized as my friend Jim.


2 Responses to “FLUFF vs. SUBSTANCE”

  1. yr Jim story is a frustrating and disappointing one, but rings true.
    There are so many such tragic tales.
    I agree with yr analysis and emotional & rational response.
    Truely, there is magnificant beauty in the world unearthed by special
    gifted souls, we can only hope that nuggets are noticed by other sensitive souls who might be able to take steps to shine a light them for all of us.
    Keep on, G

    • Since they always seem to appear in the minority, I guess it’s just a symptom of society at large. However without their contributions, where would we be?

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