Mediocrity

Mediocracy
"To pursue it might be to forfeit any possibility for ever experiencing it."

Throughout recorded history, mankind's unending quest for good enough has been goobered up by a few over-achievers, who, having reached a perfectly satisfying meadow halfway up the mountain, insisted upon turning their walk in the woods into some kind of extreme sporting event. They pine after that rarified, stony space above the tree line, where winds whip around lightening bolts. They want excellence. Their search seems endless, their lifestyles, downright obsessive. They become relentlessly proud owners of dissatisfaction, ever ranging even further upward. The rest of us, perhaps a little cowed in the presence of such seemingly misguided determination, feel moved to move no further. We're suddenly much more attracted to gratitude for what we've already achieved and acceptance of the way things currently are. We'd rather nap on our already acquired bed of laurel than go searching for unlikely eagle feathers.

I've noticed that business seems to have gone downhill since embracing the theology of excellence.
I do not claim a causative correlation. The results seem to speak for themselves. Excellence in her many guises remains elusive. We might find ourselves unable to describe who or what she is. We often resort to swiping other, apparently more successful enterprises, as our exemplar, ceding our identity for another more promising one. We're Kanban or Lean, Agile or Extreme, some vacuous label designed to encourage endless pursuit. We're deeply, permanently, and above all else professionally dissatisfied with any status quo. We imagine ourselves endlessly trending upwards, always trending, never arriving, eventually dead.

A land swelling with beer and bratwurst gets mortgaged away in favor of some land promising milk and honey. The first wife, upgraded into a trophy model. We fancy ourselves either upwardly mobile or sunk. Google the term mediocrity and you'll receive a hundred thousand exhortations to trade in that old reliable cow for a handful of magic beans and the resulting pride of ownership of what amounts to no more than potential. It might not be in the nature of dreams to come true, but to simply come. Whether one chooses to chase after them might prove to be completely optional.

Today, I sing the praises of mediocrity, where good enough amounts to plenty and enough. I've found that for me, the pursuit of excellence amounts to the pursuit of nothingness. If I hold my thoughts on writing some perfect poem, I almost never find the starting line. I must begin, it seems, in a hazy fog, without a clear destination in mind, with my very own, rather humbling version of a beginner's mind. Later, I might stumble into an excellent piece, but I think it more likely that excellence, if I ever experience it, emerges when some mysterious something stumbles into me. I doubt whether humans all by themselves are truly capable of achieving excellence, which appears as more of an emergent property than an achievement, a gift rather than an accomplishment, a widely misunderstood form of magic. To pursue it might be to forfeit any possibility for ever experiencing it.

Since at least the beginning of recorded history, a deep dissatisfaction seems to have fueled us. The kid I once was, having semi-reliably mastered three chords in three different keys, took to the high stool on the makeshift stage at that long ago coffeehouse to perform the latest product of his endless pursuit of excellence. Some of the tunes were absolutely good enough, though I doubted then and feel certain now, that not one of them really qualified as manifest excellence. Should I have gone all depressive and despondent? I realize now, as one does later in life, that I was immortal then, living in the best of times while sleeping on an unheated sleeping porch through the long, damp Seattle winter. I aspired for more and better when, from my perspective today, I already possessed what I could only later recognize as perfection. I felt compelled to try to find that trail to the top of that mountain, indifferent to the lightening and whipping winds that would greet me there, while already inhabiting a perfectly acceptable meadow partway up.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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