Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Thursday, December 30, 2004  


Michael Medved read extracts from portions of his new book, Right Turns, which didn't make the cut and were edited out. One section had to do with his success as a teenager at selling encyclopedias. He ended the chapter with a brief homily on the key to any success in America was the ability to sell or promote your ideas, your product, your gifts and to close the sale. The most important aspect after all.

He mentioned that people who were too shy or reluctant to sell end up in a pool of self-pity.

As one of those who was always mortified by selling, unable to handle rejection, and not very determined to close a sale (and I, too, tried selling encyclopedias door to door for a brief week or two when I was 18) -- I will not deny that I've enjoyed an abundance of self-pity in my life.

One of the differences between myself and a successful promoter (of self or goods) is that I have always lacked the belief that what I have to sell will greatly improve another's life or is worthwhile above all other goods or services. As much as I know my work to be of high quality, I can't convince myself that others truly need it. If I write a play, I know Shakespeare is greater. If I compose a tune, I know Bach is better, and if I offer wisdom and insight, I know that God and the Bible are far superior.

Being aware that 95% of everything is crap, and that even the next best 4% is unnecessary, when it comes to touting my goods, I lack conviction. Especially when all you hear from every direction you turn is the claim -- "I'm the best, Buy Me! Make you happy! Buy Me! I'm the One! I'm the Thing! I'm so Good, Buy Me!"

In moments of joy and yearning, I want to exult like William Blake upon my own genius and proclaim it from the mountain tops. But it also occurs to me that it is not my place to exalt myself or make extravagant claims. They say it ain't braggin' if you can do it (or prove it), but it always seemed to me that it is better for others to recommend you than to insist upon your own goodness. My goodness is always in doubt to me, and so I can't close the deal or even get up front about hawking my wares.

How do I talk about my books, for instance, in glowing terms when I know very well that 99.9999% of humanity has no interest in them and most likely never will?

Besides, does anyone have any real idea of what it's like to proclaim yourself or your work superb, wonderful, great, fascinating, entertaining, gifted, and outstanding and have everyone ignore, dismiss, reject, or sneer at that?

Well, I do know what it's like to be consistently and overwhelmingly rejected or scorned even when your work has been of amazing quality and value.

The plain fact is that some people are luckier than others, or are of a nature and personality which is going to appeal to a great many. Some folks have great commercial instincts in that their tastes naturally run in that direction; or they are glib in a way that is broad.

Let's take William Blake as a good example. He was an eccentric artist -- poet and painter -- but according to Medved, his failure to thrive commercially in England in the early 1800's was his own fault because he refused to develop the skills which would have gotten him greater approval.

The problem with that argument is that the very qualities which led Blake to his heights of genius in execution and conception were the same ones which prevented him from having an easier manner with others in the marketplace.

Blake had very little in common with the mass of men, and complained, "O, why was I born with a different face!" He had basic humanity in common with all, but very little in the way of thinking about life, approaching reality, considering the transcendant, and searching for joy and meaning.

The same is true in some ways with me. I have given so much of my life to prayer and contemplation, to study and thought, to exacting questions, and to practice of art that I feel a vast gulf between myself and most other people after we have made small talk on mundane and common interests.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:59 PM |