Genius or Madness? You Be The Judge
How do you know when you’ve reached the pinnacle of your game?
How can anyone know when that next thing will be the one thing that takes you over the top and ends your struggle for success?
For a comic it may be the next gig, for an artist that next painting or sculpture, for a businessman that upcoming deal and for everyone just taking the next offer even after you’ve sworn you’re giving up.
So is it the ones that don’t give up that necessarily cross the finish line?
And of course the next question would have to be, how do you know when it’s over and time to throw in the towel? However, unlike others who strive can it ever be over for an artist?
Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime; Red Vineyard at Arles and the rest sat in a prison of anonymity until his death?
So why did that one painting not secure the future of one of the great masters whose paintings now sell in the millions of dollars?
Why couldn’t he cross over into elusive stardom and needlessly suffered pain and frustration until he died? By anyone’s standards Van Gogh wasn’t a failure and yet in his own lifetime he was.
As a student of human nature and life, I as so many others have often sought to explain the randomness of success. Simply put, there is no rhyme or reason for those who are propelled into the illusive land of stardom and those who are forever condemned to a life of unappreciated struggle.
So who decides someone’s fate? Is it some force of destiny sitting behind a desk in a corner of Macy’s New York store behind the Thanksgiving Day balloons? Or is it within oneself to choose the time and arrival of our achievements and no one else?
Too many are quick to say those that crave success enough will discover it, yet I’ve watched countless talented and gifted people struggle and fail for a lifetime. In retrospect I’ve also seen the mediocre rise to the top, receive accolades and praise truly unwarranted by their limited talent.
So where is the cut off between fate, talent and sheer moxie?
Is it no more than an uncanny ability to hear the word no as yes? Or stop as go? To never give up despite all signs pointing to the exit?
Van Gogh never stopped painting and since I’ve never spoken with him, I can’t speak to his true ambitions. Of course I know of his torment and the obvious pain in his soul that led him to cut off his own ear and ultimately commit suicide. Yet if he was so unfulfilled and angst ridden, why go on? Why continue doing what caused such unrelenting pain?
Was it lunacy that drove him? The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So was he mad? Or was he driven by some unknown force, even to him that shouted loudly paint, paint, paint even as the world shouted back, “we don’t want you?”
Is it insanity or optimism and are they the same?
I’m certain many optimists would take umbrage to that comparison, yet isn’t optimism simply seeing only a good result at the end of the day when reality continually proves otherwise?
Telling one to retain hope in a hopeless situation and keep on truckin on even after getting run over on your chosen path is considered good advice by many.
Why would Van Gogh suffer, but Picasso collect accolades and untold wealth for merely expressing their extraordinary gifts? Was one a higher form of genius or producer of masterpieces? The facts prove otherwise?
So asking the burning yet never before answered question, why, I can still offer no answer.
You might ask what is the point in the asking? After all greater scholars and thinkers than I have sought the answer to this ageless enigma…does hard work and perseverance always equal success?
I’m afraid that’s not an answer but merely a conclusion drawn from observing so many successful people.
Yet do we too quickly dismiss those who have adopted that same equation and attained the opposite result?
What separates the frustrated Van Gogh from a successful Picasso? Is it simply a matter of timing? Can some be lost in the trends or mores of their day and reemerge later after becoming the very trend itself, when others defining genius finally see fit to choose them?
Is it only the decision makers that call the shots for art and those with the most cache and clout decide the fate and definition of genius?
Even a Picasso whose brilliance is never doubted will inspire some to stand back and murmur, “I just don’t get it?”
Can anyone say Toulouse Lautrec, Claude Monet and numerous others never recognized during their life are more talented in death?
Franz Kafka, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe, John Keats are all now immortal by today’s standards and yet struggled to achieve respect or fortune during their own lifetime.
So artists and even scientists must many times be satisfied with following their destiny alone and as Thoreau wrote, “live lives of quiet desperation.”
Despite the gift one has received from the universe, a talent they may feel compelled to exhibit, there is still that small part within us all that seeks to be part of the herd, to fit into society and find one’s place.
If we create an imbalance between those two needs, fitting in and the desperate drive to express our art and separate ourselves, we’ll fail to achieve the equilibrium that promotes stability and contentment.
So does it merely come down to luck and timing?
Or having the right power broker smile down on you and your work to achieve success? Without an advocate is Claude Monet any less a genius?
I believe there is a force of destiny at work in the universe, and yet the sheer amount of luck at receiving approval from those with the power to say whom will live and die with their talent cannot be denied.
There must be an originator and an admirer working in tandem to achieve success. Yet there is also much to be said for one’s passion and resolve to express the art within, whether or not anyone ever understands or appreciates its greatness, except its own creator. It’s only this desperation to exorcise one’s gift that compels the artist and in the end that’s as much control as one may expect in a judgmental world.
Lox and Bagel Bites
1 tub whipped cream cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet onion
½ cup nova lox cut up
1 hard boiled egg optional
Cut cucumbers in 1-inch circles
Hollow out seeds and pat dry and set aside don’t go all the way through the cucumber so filling stays inside.
Mix together lox onions and cream cheese and lighting salt and pepper. Remember lox can be salty so go slow with the seasoning
With a teaspoon or a pastry bag fill cucumber rounds with cream cheese mixture.
Garnish with pieces of bagel chips and if so desired grate some hardboiled egg on top.
Great appetizers for brunch or a snack