The uncommon, complete person
October 17, 2010 by Bill
One of the most insulting cults that exists in our society today is the religion that worships the “common man.” You hear people say “Oh, they are just good old common people. You will like them.” It has been said that God must love the common people because he made so many of them. Hardly! God did not make them. They made themselves common by hiding their talents and leaving their potential untouched.
The word “common” in Webster’s Dictionary means crude…without distinction…second rate…inferior…cheap…trite…below normal…unrefined and inelegant.”
What greater insult than to be called a “common” person or to be known as a “common” person. We praise commonness. What a contradiction we live with. If you need life saving surgery requiring great skill, you absolutely do not want a common doctor. You will pay all you have for the best surgeon possible. If your life is to be defended in court you certainly do not want a common lawyer. So where in the world does this insane and absurd praise of commonness come from? We want excellence in our doctors, lawyers, pilots, mechanics, accountants and on and on through every discipline of society.
Before he died, Ernest Hemingway called this “the millenium of the untalented.” He said, “we are surrounded by actors who cannot act, singers who cannot sing, teachers who cannot teach, writers who cannot write, speakers who cannot speak, painters who cannot paint, and we pay them fortunes for their mediocrity.”
One of the early Greek poets put it this way: “Before the gates of excellence, the high gods have placed sweat.” Contemporary author and scholar Eric Hoffer used these words: “Those who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune rather than to insufficient application. Thus, talent is a species of vigor.”
Why do we so fear demanding excellence? Several years ago, the 83 year old Seattle maestro, Dr. Stanley Chapple, was invited to direct a performance of the Tacoma Youth Symphony. What an education it was for those young people.
Dr. Chapple stood in front of the orchestra at the first rehearsal and said this: “I will demand that you rise to my standards of music excellence. I will most certainly not bend down to your level. I will treat you as if you were the Boston Symphony or the New York Philharmonic. I will direct as if you were professional musicians and will demand that you rise to excellence. Now let us begin.”
On performance night, the quality and majesty of the production exceeded all expectations.
People do not stumble into excellence. It requires application and tenacity of purpose.
How often do we hide our commonness in the sanctuary of groups? I call this “salvation by survey.” We say, “I’m with them, even if they are idiots or wrong, I’m with them…the Republicans…or the AMA…the ADA…the Presbyterians or Episcopalians…the NAACP or the NRA. I’ll vote with them even if they are imbeciles or if what they are doing is idiotic.” The common person surveys his/her group and the polls to get his beliefs and his cue.
And we commonize our existence with meaningless clichés such as “moderation in all things.” Moderation is the key to mediocrity. Moderation is defined as “staying within accepted limits.” Uncommon people who are memorable and who use their time on this Earth to the fullest are usually most immoderate and never stay within the accepted limits of the common masses.
The creative giants of civilization, in all disciplines, have gotten themselves into immortality by vast immoderate creativity and contributions and by never staying within accepted limits.
Our schools are crying for uncommon teachers who are excellent, outstanding and distinguished. Our communities are in desperate need of such people. Our nation cries for men and women who are uncommon, who are excellent… trained… talented… competent… distinguished and knowledgeable.
I have put together a definition of what could describe my idea of an uncommon and complete human being, man or woman, remembering that we cannot be all of these things, but if we have no goals or ideals that include human excellence and human distinction, we are, of all people, the most pathetic.
- He continually is seeking wisdom in his attempt to make wise and independent decisions based upon accurate facts, clear reasoning, understanding and justice.
- He is growing in his ability to make a wise choice between good and evil, between light and darkness, between the beautiful and the ugly, between love and indifference.
- He makes his decisions based upon wisdom and study, rather than prejudice, dogma, doctrine, hearsay, superstitions, methods and systems.
- He never adjusts to the world of the common, but rather lives as an individual in all of his choices. Even while he lives in the society of the group, he retains his uniqueness and individuality.
- He comprehends ideas that are basic to the complete life, and he knows what is meant by the world’s uncommon thinkers in the discussion of fundamental and human issues.
- He knows, even as Pericles said of the early Athenian men, that he can be a lover of the beautiful with no loss of manliness.
- He knows his relationship to nature and to the natural order of things and he can name the birds and animals, without a gun.
- He knows poetry and music and is not uncomfortable with Plato and Heraclitus and Goethe.
- He knows the woods, the seashore, the desert and the hawk on the wind. He knows the wild delphinium of Alpine meadow and he knows the pointers and the pole star.
- He is so secure in his own being that he can openly show love, and cry, and show compassion with no diminishing of manhood.
It is time for all potentially excellent men and women to come to the aid of their party, whose name is “Western civilization”.