Genius or Madness? You Be The Judge

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

2 cucumbers

1 tub whipped cream cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet onion

½ cup nova lox cut up

Bagel chips

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




No Sense of Urgency

To procrastinate: delay or postpone action; put off doing something

One of the things I’ve found during this crisis is that I have rediscovered and am now channeling my inner procrastinator. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “I’ll do it tomorrow in the last few months, well you know”

Yes, that concept we have been taught to avoid because it focuses on short-term happiness and goals seems to be the operative word now.

However, can we be accused of acting hedonistically when short term is all there is to focus on right now? Can we plan our lives even a week from now? Sadly no.

Aside from those that are lucky enough to still be employed and out functioning in the world, the rest of us seem to be busy trying to fill our days in captivity.

Of course there are many productive activities we can and continue doing like working from home, but many hours in the day we filled with more compulsory endeavors are now more discretionary.

I must admit that even I as an avid motion picture fan am growing rather tired of on demand, live streaming and Turner Classic Movies.

Yes, I do keep up with the latest Netflix offerings and read everyone’s comments on Facebook about the Tiger King and Unorthodox so I’m not living under a rock, however it does get old.

So begs the question, is a sense of urgency what’s necessary to cure procrastination? Or are human beings wired to move quickly when probed, like swatting a burro on its hindquarters. Andalay!

Mothers and fathers are now tasked with more to do as so many are working from home and must help teach and plan activities for their children. I know some young Moms who contend when this is over they will feel like they’re on vacation.

Perhaps these days of seeking ways to fill the time have been good and bad in many ways.

One good is obviously the fact so many have now embraced their inner Emeril. Cooks all over the world are drawn into the kitchen to refine their skills and experiment with new recipes and concoctions.

However this trend must be traced back to a primal urge for humans to eat when hungry or many times, bored, aggravated, bathing suit shopping, family dinners, depressed, hating a new hairdo or you run out of Cherry Garcia ice cream; and yes an entire carton is considered one serving.

So, the serge in cooking is actually predicated on the desire to first and foremost eat and second to fill the day. This is a positive outcome of the time in quarantine and will probably translate into new vistas of adventure for many that have never previously left the sofa to order take out.

There are many areas however one can point to and say, “Uh oh, procrastination has sunk in.” For example dressing up.

After all when you’re wearing sweats everyday and walking from the bedroom to the television screen not so much need for wardrobe changes or jewelry.

Although there are those who are exercising regularly outdoors as well, when at home it’s the bare minimum in fashion and the maximum in comfort one seeks.

Hair has become such an issue for some women that they are literally threatening to drive to other states to find a hairdresser to color their roots. Hello, Girlfriend, shampoo in tints, Amazon delivers, and a no brainer that even a baboon can do.

Elastic waists are ruling the roost now allowing room for all the extra cooking and tasting going on.

Where once women that lived alone could argue I put on make up even when I’m home just for myself. Out the window, cause unless you’re zooming not so much grooming.

Americans especially are a nation of urgency junkies. We love to receive a good kick in the behind because that’s what has always worked so well for us in the past.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor we were up and running. We even had a theme song, “Over There Over There.” Should be played now, “The Yanks are Coming the Yanks are coming, the drums drum drumming everywhere.” We jump into action and never look back. We’re a country of scrappers and we love a good fight.

When Japan attacked General Motors, we leapt into action once again and fought back. Okay, so Japan won that one, but we did make a heck of an effort.

World Trade Center, we fought, we conquered, we rebuilt. It’s what Americans do.

Human beings need a sense of urgency, which is proven by the way they’re fighting to get businesses reopen although the virus is still out there as strong as ever.

People need a reason to get up in the morning and yes, although a new Netflix movie may be exciting it’s not enough to fill our lives.

I think one example of a positive is the virus has forced us to spend time at home with our families. To cook, eat, watch television, read, exercise, talk and create new activities together. Sadly it may be a boom for divorce lawyers, but I doubt that, last man standing rule and all.

Perhaps there was a sense of urgency to slow down and smell the roses and if anything good comes from all this captivity, I vote for family time. The other side of course is not being able to see family and grandchildren.

The scale tips both ways, but as I’ve said before we rise to the occasion.

Expectations from others and from within ourselves are what drives and propels us to achieve more and greater goals. That sense of urgency we experience every day is what flicks on the light switch within us and forces the electric current into our creative selves.

So if you’ve been home channeling your inner chef, Picasso, Dior, or Hemingway, once life returns to normal it will be a sense of being in the world once more that sparks you up to the next level. New businesses, books, creative outlets will be born from captivity, but sadly one doesn’t have the luxury to plan when right now. Let’s face it, the song doesn’t just say “where”, but also “when” and that’s a big factor in giving one impetus to move ahead with life, dreams and goals. Perhaps there was a sense of urgency for you to delve into your inner dreams.

Much will change in this new normal we face, but one fact remains the same, every so often we all need to slow down, relax and procrastinate just a little. Get in touch with parts of oneself forgotten or ignored. But I think everyone will agree, enough already!