In public school we were taught not to be too ambitious. Career aptitude tests pushed you into mediocre jobs, guidance counselors encouraged you not to reach too high in your college applications, and my peers laughed at the few people who had “big goals.”
School today is the attempt to reduce people to a common denominator. Anyone who deviates, anyone of unborrowed vision, of ambition, is seen to have something wrong with him. Our culture borrows from this and sometimes I worry we’ll eventually have a pill to “manage ambition,” as if it’s a disorder.
We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in those year in the Home of the Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick. It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers told us so, and they frowned when they looked at us.
― Ayn Rand, Anthem
If you’re upset about mediocrity around you, the best thing you can do is to opt out of the mediocre, stop praising it, and make something great yourself.
Be the trend.
I had a conversation with a 21 year-old friend in Austin recently about how old he’ll feel when he’s my age (25) and how worried he is about the next few years.
It struck me during the conversation how much I felt the same at that age and how differently I feel now. 25 is shaping up to be one of the best years of my life. I’m calmer, more focused, better positioned, and happier than I’ve ever been.
I feel younger now at 25 than I did at 21. Big mistakes you make eventually become comical lessons and even good memories in a way and what’s left is just excitement for your future and the realization that you never needed to worry that much at all.
From Aeschylus in the Orestia:
Zeus has led us on to know,
the Helmsman lays it down as law
that we must suffer, suffer into truth.
We cannot sleep, and drop by drop at the heart
the pain of pain remembered comes again,
and we resist, but ripeness comes as well.
From the gods enthroned on the awesome rowing-bench
there comes a violent love.
Vrook: “You were deafened.
“Kreia: “At last, you could hear.
“Kavar: “You were broken.”
Kreia: “You were whole.”
Zez-Kai Ell: “You were blinded.”
Kreia: “And at last… you saw.“
From Donnie Darko:
I promise, that one day, everything’s going to be better for you.
From The Fountainhead:
I’m not capable of suffering completely. I never have. It goes only down to a certain point and then it stops. As long as there is that untouched point, it’s not really pain.
It turned out I should have listened better to the things the people I admired had written all along.
I was excited to receive a new piece a while back from my friend and artist Hannah Phillips depicting the Greek god Ares.
Though he himself isn’t anything directly meaningful to me, Ares is the god I remember most because he was wounded by Diomedes, the only man in Greek literature to wound two immortal gods in battle and survive, and perhaps my favorite hero from Greek mythos.
It happens in Book V of The Iliad. Diomedes has wounded Aphrodite, who was fighting on behalf of the Trojans, and he’s just attacked Apollo. Apollo angrily calls Ares to battle and Diomedes orders the Greeks to retreat from the god of war, telling Athena:
Goddess, I know you truly and will not hide anything from you. I am following your instructions and retreating for I know that Ares is fighting among the Trojans.
To which Athena replies, encouraging him to stand strong:
Diomedes most dear to my heart, do not fear this immortal or any other god for I will protect you.
Diomedes turns back to the battle and throws his spear at Ares, wounding him and causing him to flee from the battle.
Understand that this was rare in Greek mythology and totally unheard of in other world literature. Men do not stand up to gods and live. Yet Diomedes did, and not only that, he actually struck a blow against them. He caused the god of war to run away.
Seeing his statue in Munich a few years ago, I was glad to see that it matched his deeds. Diomedes has been symbol to me of man become god, not literally — Diomedes wasn’t immortal — but through action that was so daring and so out of bounds from the norm that it took on godlike significance and qualities.