Rendered Fat Content


Willem van Mieris: The Raree-show [’t Fraay Curieus] (1718)

" … the sorriest sort of Success."

Something encourages me to distrust anything that continually occurs, especially Successes. Success seems as though it should appear unreliably, Rarely, lest it forfeit its specialness. The magician who reliably delivers flawless performances must travel because no hometown audience would ever tolerate such consistency. No hitter delivers a home run every time they take to the plate. No painter produces endless flawless masterpieces. Flawed production might even be necessary to properly frame the extraordinary. Success seems as though it should be, at best, a rare occurrence.

What of the remaining performances?
If most of them fall short of successful, what might we make of the performer? Are they then flawed with glimpses of inherent brilliance or brilliant with a tarnished patina? I might expect my very best performance every time I suit up and thereby create a life perhaps best characterized by failed attempts. This might necessarily produce some self-esteem issues, but I seemed damned whatever I might do here. If I were to flawlessly perform every time, I might rightfully accuse myself of not challenging myself enough, of choosing modest targets for the sole purpose of achieving them every time I tried. If I were to miss too often, though, I might never come to know just how masterful I sometimes seem, successes becoming too relatively rare and far between to ever seem definitive. Even the most successful might experience themselves as mostly losers.

On those rare occasions when I produce a story that seems to me among my best ever, I might notice how few in my audience seem to notice. I expect a hundred and fifty likes and comments and receive fewer than a dozen. Did I decide myself that I'd created one of my greatest successes, or was it just a random occurrence that few seemed to notice? How would anyone know? Of course, there's just no knowing, and I keep myself going by mostly ignoring whatever's happening in the audience. Not that I'm indifferent, quite the opposite. It's more that I dare not become dependent upon displaced judgments. Not even The Muse manages to keep up with my stories. She swears that Facebook deliberately renders them impossible for her to find. I'm remarkably dependent upon my own internal self-talk to determine my failures from my successes, and I remain steadfastly aware of how I presume that my successes should only rarely appear. I do not aim for the fence every time I step up to bat so as to not disappoint myself too much.

I suspect that we all understand this delicate calculus. We choose our favorites as well as our also-rans. We do not usually abandon anyone’s work just because their hit single featured a B side. We expected no better and probably no less. That one song in a lifetime should be properly surrounded by more mediocre attempts, each of which further elevates that one great Success. Was it always like this? Once Success becomes conveniently repeatable, it metastasizes into privilege, which seems to say nothing good about the performer. He's become soft and lazy then, clipping coupons rather than creating original content, no longer struggling against the inexorable forces, hardly noteworthy anymore. So then, our hero moves just a small step away from becoming famous for being famous, the sorriest sort of Success: routine, if any real Success at all. Success should only Rarely visit. We all know this.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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