Newspaper + Marker = Poetry.
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.
In Slovenia last year I did some of the best writing I’ve ever done. That’s at least my own totally unbiased estimation of my work. Moments like the one I experienced are rare in my writing. I blog every single day and yet I’m lucky if I experience that once a month.
I don’t consider it something magical. It’s something you habituate yourself into in a sense, like an Olympic sprinter who runs and incredible time in the 100 meter dash. That sprinter might not equal that time for months. He might never equal that time again. And yet it was all the lesser times leading up to it that made it possible.
This is how I approach writing. Slovenia Moments, as I’ve started calling them, are made possible by all the head bashing and drudgery you do every other day. I won’t always experience them but when I do it will be worth it.
As a general rule, don’t trust any artist who says their talents or inspirations come out of nowhere. They lack self awareness or they are falsely humble. Trust me, they earned that Slovenia Moment. And if you want it too, start doing your art now.
Slovenia was incidentally one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever visited. I look forward to going back sometime.
I visited on a layover I had after speaking in Sarajevo, Bosnia at OpenFest 2017.
A short but productive time made possible through writing.