08 January 2013

In Pursuit of Excellence

I went on a date once several years ago where we got to talking about the afterlife.

"I can't wait to get to heaven and spend a few hundred years just reading everything that's ever been written," I said.

". . . Everything?  There are probably some books that won't be there," says my date.

"Well, yes.  Twilight isn't good enough even if the author IS Mormon.  But Jane Austen.  She's got to be.  Heaven wouldn't be heaven if I couldn't read Sense and Sensibility when I wanted to.  Or Anne of Green Gables.  Or Harry Potter."

That was the end of that relationship.

I think he thought I was a little extreme.  Or sacrilegious.

Next time I'm asked about my favorite color, I'll show them this.

But I'm completely serious about the books in heaven thing.  I'm also serious about wanting to learn to play a bunch of instruments/play them better (flute, piano, violin, cello, harp, bagpipes, didgeridoo) and I want to dance (ballet, contemporary, swing, ballroom) and I want to hone my acting skills and write, and finally learn how to draw, and I want to sculpt and take pictures and learn more about growing plants and become an amazing singer.  I want to do all of those things in addition to, you know, being with my family and making worlds and sleeping and such.

(Hey.  It's eternity.  A girl can dream, right?)

My problem, as pointed out to me by a friend, is that I want to do all of these things now.

Looking at my teaching schedule for the year, I started to bemoan the fact that I am mediocre to good at many things, but not truly excellent or masterful at really anything.  I'm a good writer, but not a great one.  I'm a good actress, but not West End caliber.  I'm a passable photographer, but I'd never get a job at National Geographic.  And I want to be excellent.  Really excellent.  Except - as you can see above - I'm interested in too many things to hone in on one skill to perfect.

And I'm not nearly egotistical enough to imagine that I'll ever approach DaVinci in terms of genius.  That's mental.

And this, my friends, is why I need eternity.  And why we all do, I think.  There's still so much to learn.  And I want to learn it all!

I suppose my first step may be learning to clone myself to make it happen. . . what do you think?  It might be more efficient.

In the mean time, I don't really see any solution but to keep being interested in everything.  It might mean that I never really become brilliant.  But the thought of giving up any of those interests is about as bad as the prospect of never reading Jane Austen again.


Lisa said...

First thought of mine: Joni, what do you mean you aren't an excellent writer or singer or actress? Of course you are...at least to me!! But then I remembered that I am your mom and mothers may not have the most objective viewpoint. I still think you are amazing, though!

Second thought: Wow, can I relate to what you wrote! I consider myself better than average at many things, but not truly excellent at anything. Because of this, I also look forward to the eternities when I will have time to pursue all I want to learn, do and become. First on my list is being a Broadway star!

Third thought: Define "excellence". Because you are so much better than I am at writing, singing, and acting, all things I love to do,too, I certainly consider you "excellent". But you probably look at people better than you are in these areas and think of them as "excellent" which, by definition, would place you below your standard of "excellent". So when does one reach a level of "excellence"? When one gets an award? Gets paid for what they do? Finds no one else on the planet better than they are? Can no longer improve in their talent, has maxed out so to speak?

I guess what I'm driving at is that excellence is all a matter of perspective. I hope that we don't deny ourselves of the joy of the journey simply because we do not find ourselves meeting the elusive definition of excellence we may have set. Your post was good for me to read because, as one who is below you in talent, I was a bit shocked that you don't consider yourself "excellent". It got me thinking that there are probably people looking at me, thinking I am "excellent" at things I don't think I am, either. Maybe I should stop worrying about where I am on the "excellence" scale and just enjoy whatever level of talent I am at at the moment.

The End.

Joni said...

Thanks, mom. In answer to your question about excellence - I don't know! That's the hard part. Sometimes I think life is one big long balancing act where you try to be both content with what you have been given and use it the best you can, and a continual striving to perfect yourself and to improve. That's where the parable of the talents comes in for me - I trust that if I keep working hard and do the best I can with what I have to get better and (hopefully) bless the lives of the people around me, then I'll receive more capability in those areas. I suppose one of the real sources of angst for me, though, is more along the lines of time constraints. In the eternities you have all kinds of time to learn and grow, but here you've only got so much time. And I'm impatient and want to learn and perfect everything now :P.

ramsam said...

But we all know Twilight has major resurrection and eternity symbols..just look at how the vampires are saved in their life after death in their perfect form! What's not to love?
I jest (mostly). She totally ripped off the resurrection thing.
Anyway, i can relate, i want to be much, much better, at pretty much everything I do. You just said it first. And better.