I am told by some that to suggest that greatness lies in every person no matter their level of education or life experience is not only naive, it is perhaps…dangerous….because facts bear out that this just aint so. The problem is that absent the data, we can make lots of assumptions because some facts are missing (which is assuming that they don’t exist). That is, as humans we tend to insert meaning when we are missing the facts.
I come from an awareness of what human potential is based on my own personal experience concerning the subject. I have found that a slew of our assumptions about creativity and the intellect are not only wrong, they are dangerously outmoded. This is not, though, a place for me to explain why this is so. That will have to be a post for another day. I think, though, that I have a few more facts in my quiver than the average archer of ideas. Let’s hope I can drive this one home with a bulls-eye.
There is this idea that we only use a small portion of our brain. We all know about this idea, right? It turns out that this is true, actually, and it has to do with HOW we optimize our intellectual capacity. And not all of it actually has to do with rational “intellectual” kinds of thinking, but how we optimize our entire being as part of a hitherto poorly-known way to make the most of what we EACH have. I am writing about this in my book Waking The Infinite, which chronicles the first four to five years of something that happened to me beginning in 2006 that I learned was an Awakening. It was in many ways the end of one life and the beginning of another for me. It also showed me how it is that we each can optimize our potentials as human beings and that we are literally without limit. the limits that we do have are those that WE have created. The problem is that we are not aware that we have each done this. Imagine driving around in your life with the parking brake on and not even knowing it. Let’s just say that in our world people don’t even know they HAVE a parking brake. This is to say that most everyone is literally putting the brakes on their experience. This is itself a deep subject, and it is not my purpose to go into this here now to defend the idea or explain it. I am here for a simpler reason today…it is about what we each have.
We ALL have it. Write it on your bones. Just because YOU have not tapped it does not mean it does not exist. It is like someone who drills for water folding their arms and saying there is no water underground because upon drilling once or twice (or ten times), they find none. What limits us is our gathered collective of awareness and understanding of the matters at hand. Sometimes what we each lack is that one or two central facts or elements that help to create a kind of hinge-pin effect whereby everything we are looking at as seemingly separate facts all fall together into a related, dynamic, whole. Hence, those without the larger vision will say “it can’t be done.” And you know, the thing is, with that attitude, it can’t.
I will give you an example. The other day I was working with my art students with a new project. Many of them were stumped over the project I was presenting to them. The project itself was quite simple in what it was I needed them to do, which had to do with building volume in 3-D works using line as the way to suggest volume. it is considered a way to bridge between the 2-D and 3-D worlds, and it brings line and volume together so that the student can ponder and deal with what volume is.
The rest of the project was really wide open, which means the potential for creative expression was vast. In fact, after I listed a series of assignments for the project (ideas mostly intended to get them working with ideas that challenge them to create complex visual relationships in the work), I also said that if they had an idea that they were excited about, then we should talk! I told them what I was interested in seeing them do in this project. They understood the underpinnings. But many of them were just stuck.
The ideas that they came up with were…well….they were not particularly inspired. And yet, what is so interesting, is that when some of them began to dream and play with their ideas enough to feel inspired, the ideas began to flow. The ones who were the most successful were not afraid to play….to just jump in and try some things without a full expectation of where they were going (some also had some very definite expectations, too!) And as these ideas began to flow, the quality of the ideas also increased hugely. And why? Most of these were because the student was able to find their place of connection to the assignment. The most successful ones were able to “make” the project their own. And making life your own, it turns out, is a big part of success. We all need a way to access our greatness and this has more to do with how inspired we let ourselves get because when we are inspired, something happens in our grey matter and in our being that is just…..different. We care more. Ideas just keep popping. We fall under the golden grace of the moment. You know what I am talking about; everything just falls into place. You feel….LUCKY. It is like some juice has flowed into your veins. And what is it? It is JUST inspiration. It lifts you an inch off the ground. Your body feels great. You feel pitched into what it is you are doing. And what is it that inspired people have that many others don’t? They have an ability to believe in what it is that they are doing even when others don’t. They are persistent in this effort. To understand how huge persistence is, I want to tell you a story about a man who could have easily lived an unremarkable life. I want to say upfront that I am not suggesting that a remarkable life is about being recognized for what it is that you do in your life. I know that greatness is often not seen for what it is in a person’s lifetime. The “great” minds of the world have this habit of lagging behind the visionaries. So no, my criteria for greatness is not what many might think.
I am here actually to tell you about a man who lived who could have easily become less than a footnote in history. He could have easily have simply disappeared from the world stage and we would never have known about his awesome greatness. That we even know his name is because he persisted. August Rodin was a child who admitted that he hated school. He described how he always felt like he was a prisoner. He attended what was considered a “petite ecole” which is a small arts school growing up. Rodin showed promise as an artist, and at age 19 he applied to THE art school, the Ecole D’Beaux Arts. He was rejected not once, but three times by this August institution for his manner of sculpting. Now realize that the Ecole system was not considered to be THAT difficult to get into in its day. Many applied and got in and a certain percentage managed to float to the top and gain national or international recognition in their work. So this was a blow to Rodin, no doubt.
Rodin spent the next twenty years working as a decorative plasterer making plaster for the interiors and exterior of nice homes. He didn’t make a lot of money doing this and he didn’t like working for others. Finally, at about age forty, Rodin completed a full figure rendering of a male figure in plaster that was made into bronzes. It is known now as the Age of Bronze. When Rodin submitted the work for a competition, it was believed that Rodin has made the work by way of making plaster molds directly from life. Rodin brought in the man who served as the model for the work and the questions were dealt with once and for all.
Rodin was without peer during his time. Here, the man who would be called the “father of modern sculpture” was not seen for the genius that he was. And it all makes sense. This is because we so often are unable to see what it is we are even looking at. It would seem that seeing greatness requires a little vision in itself. But you see, the fact is, it was possible that Rodin could have become a foot note had it been he had not persisted. Persistence, along with inspiration, is the winning combination it would seem in many things from art to science. In it lies the possibility of discovery. “And what happens if I do not find this?” Someone asks. I answer, “Then you have a choice to keep at it until you do or allow one-act of seeking to determine your life story.”
It is up to you. No one is going to sit there and tell you that they believe in you. People say “What if I fail?” Oh my goodness! You are afraid that one failure in your life is going to suddenly cast your purpose in life as not worth pursuing. WHo is it you are doing this for? Are you doing it for yourself or are you doing this to gain favor from others? If you are waiting on the latter, you should expect a long wait because humans are very poor at seeing greatness as any glimpse at commercial television will abundantly illustrate with all the “twerking” happening, a world where so many have their fifteen minutes in the spotlight, but without truly being able to show their bone-deep greatness. our world often devolves into a glitter world…which is to say a place where little substance is found. If it going to be found, it will be because we have found it and then shown it. Even if we don’t get the limelight to do it with.
No one will be able to express or articulate or even FIND the greatness that you feel living just under that skin of yours. And yet, you KNOW it exists. Do you know HOW you are going to find it? If you had that part, would find it be even worth the effort? Really? So go find it. Let it be an adventure and let yourself believe. It seems that everyone who believes has better odds than those who do not.