There are times when I read an interesting perspective, only to discover that I, too, had been tantalizingly close in my unpublished draft (there are many). Why didn’t I publish them then?
Whatever little I had written was written overcoming time-scarcity, laziness, lethargy and sense of futility in one magical moment when ego momentarily triumphed humility. What else explains a writer’s foolish endeavor to add more to the tomes of printed material accumulated since writing was invented!
There were times when I had voluntarily silenced myself to escape the scathing disapproval I had come to expect from others. When I later chanced upon a work that reinforced what I had always felt (but didn’t articulate), I couldn’t help feeling stupid to have not pursued that line of thought to the end. During one of my maths class back in school, I effortlessly waded through the complexities of the problem only to reach a dead-end and gave it up thinking I got it wrong somewhere. Imagine my frustration, when only a few minutes later the teacher went through the same sequence and made a leap from exactly where I faltered to reach the solution!
So, it is amid these ruminations that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” chanced upon my eyes today:
“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another”.
Does this mean that we don’t ever need to amend our position upon stumbling new information? I, for one, changed my stand from Telangana-agnostic to pro-Telangana in this very blog. Indeed, blind belief in one’s opinions, without acquainting oneself with necessary information and conflicting viewpoints, veers dangerously close to narcissism and associated personality conditions. And that’s the stuff many of the cult movements are made of. Many cults derive their viral potency from exploiting the human need of laying the blame of one’s failure or shortcomings at someone else’s (or something) door.
On the other hand, there are limits to human ability to slurp all information as we can never reach the bedrock of oceanic knowledge. There cannot be a “final word”, it can at best only be the penultimate one because by the time we’ve captured all, we are forced to accommodate another newly-created dimension. Indeed, pursuing this line to the logical end would entail having no values to fight for, as there is nothing of lasting value by this nihilistic interpretation. So, we cannot allow this to deter us from our quest in weaving together whatever is known into a coherent perspective.
We are bound to be wrong many times because we’re not reporters recording the past that’s well-settled. We connect the dots, try to make sense of the chaos and project the present happenings into a cohesive viewpoint, sometimes into the future too. In this, more than any pursuit, we will fail, as shall any human endeavor. But that is no reason to stop trying.
Often, the emotional overreaction to defeat is more fatal than the defeat itself. It stops us from renewing our efforts and approaching a fresh line of action which might have fetched results. Instead of shutting oneself inside metaphorical doors, we could have engaged in a parallel activity until the time was apt for a reinvigorated attack. Whether or not we like it, as long as we’re here, some kind of work will be thrust on us. Irrespective of how much you crave it, men will never be released from the burden of performance. In fact, the very romantic notion of wanting to be respected irrespective of one’s performance marks the undoing of many men in their relationships. Men will continue to be judged based on their material worth, and thus, to have one’s mental point of origin outside of oneself is such a self-defeating attitude. So, we may as well take the heat of other’s opinion in our stride, and the efforts to rebut them may instead be channelized in one’s area of interest.
Many endeavors fail because the person lacks the self-confidence necessary to keep going when no one is appreciating, much less understanding his work. Attempting to find the source of validation from others is the surest way to burn your gifts. On the counterfactual, if you compromise, you’ll sure have people around and a lot to boast about to others. But these stick on you merely because they have been put on. You’ll get used the noise after a while and still perceive deafening silence in your heart. Such association holds no intrinsic value to you or your growth.
Listen to your inner voice and work incessantly towards where it guides you. The initial excitement might take a nap after a while, and you might be experiencing your profession’s counterpart of “writer’s block”. But keep going because the inspiration will arrive soon enough.
Remember, work inspires inspiration!