Friday, November 6, 2015

To think about

The other night I sat up in bed and I started thinking.

I believe the greatest thing in life to be true self development. 
At once I can hear cries of "egoism", "individuality", "lack of altruism" arising from all sides.But wait until I have explained what I mean by "true" self development... to find the true use of one's powers and use them, and this, I believe, is the greatest thing in life. 
At first sight this may appear platitudinous; but how many people are there who will give the same careful thought, the same discriminating sense of proportion and balance, to the finding out of their own potencies as they will give, let us say, to the potencies of a recipe for a new cocktail? 
Not everyone has the same powers... but every person who is capable of mental development must carry, within himself or herself, a power of some kind... it is in the discovery of this power that true intelligence is shown; and it is in the fostering and proper development of it that happiness lies. 
By "happiness" I do not mean worldly success or outside approval, though it would be priggish to deny that both these things are most agreeable. I mean the inner consciousness, the inner conviction that one is doing well the thing that one is best fitted to do by nature. 
It is a much better thing to be a good carpenter than a bad artist... 
Several parties have been given in recent times which have been described as "freak" parties, and at one of thse each guest had to appear as someone else. Where is the "freakishness" in this? 
In these days of standardised faces, standardised clothes, standardized voices, I think the real "freak" party would be the one at which all were forced to appear as their own idea of themselves. 
It is this lack ofo personality, this entire absence of any knowledge of what "personality" really means, which is at the bottom of nearly all the bad work which is done today. 
Just as every girls wants to look like every other young girl and every grandmother wants to be mistaken for her own granddaughter, so most workmen are content... to turn out "sections" which will fit into any "whole" and artists are pleased and flattered to be called "another so and so." 
Yet should not everyone be burningly anxious to be himself or herself because of an intense and intimate conviction that no one else can be that "self"? Can one imagine Shakespeare or Beethoven being flattered at being acclaimed "another" anyone at all? Were they not the creators of Shakespeare and Beethoven and as such unique and unrepeatable? 
Because the world cannot be populated by Titans, and because the smallest is as necessary to the greatest in every well proportioned scheme, then, no matter how small the place to be filled, the person who is called upon to fill it should be convinced that it is a better place by the mere fact of his presence and his work; that it is he himself and not another person who is a necessity there.
But before I could grab pen and paper and write all this down, I remembered that Edith Sitwell had written every word about eighty years previously. Scooped again!

Why do so few of us realize aur potential, or anything like it, really? Thee are lots of reasons, I'm sure, but prime among them is this abandonment of the duty to be yourself

This lack seems to cut across the eras. And while you could find much more than one reason for this, the fact that self development is given so little weight is chief among them.


susan said...

Since there are so many factors involved this is one of those subjects we could spend many hours discussing. In a society where everyone is expected to fit into specially designed slots individuality isn't encouraged, far from it. Instead, we have people obsessed with having multiple 'friends' on whatever social network you'd care to name.

Meanwhile, as individuals, all we can do is to get on with that development to the best of our abilities.

Ben said...

A big part of it is a matter of choices being foreclosed. A very superficial kind of individuality may be encouraged, but once you've gone through the "be yourself" thing you find out how many choices have been made for you, and how unwelcome it would be to make a choice differing from that.

This essay comes from a biography of Dame Edith that also had a lot of her poetry in it. I've returned the book now but I should post one of her poems here, just to class up the joint.