Last week, at the end of the poem, Resting in the arms of Fate, I asked the question, “would you rather be mediocre at something you love or great at something that, though is uniquely your own, you never wanted?”  Most people rephrased the question in their heads as would you rather be mediocre at something you love or great at something you hate.  No, no, no, I would never have asked something so easy.

In the context of the poem, what I meant was, we all have God given gifts, or natural talents.  Sometimes, you discover that you are naturally good at something that never occurred to you before.  Do you owe it to fate to use your gifts for good?  If you are not talented enough in the work that you always wanted to do, do you forget your natural abilities and push on through trying to bend fate to your own will?

To make the question clear, I’ll use myself as an example.  I always loved music and wanted nothing more than to sing and play my guitar.  And though I can hold a tune, I was never going be able to make music a career in the hyper competitive field with people that possess some insane natural abilities… Let’s forget the fact that there are some insanely untalented people that make it.

On the other hand, other than songs, I never wanted to be a writer.  Some people can’t imagine doing anything other than writing, whereas for me, I possess some natural talent for it, but not enough devotion to it to religiously nurture my craft.  If I were to fully give-in to this God given ability, then maybe I would be amazing, but I am too fascinated with music to give writing prose, or even poetry, the time it deserves.  I don’t hate writing, rather, I like it.  It’s just not my passion.   However, on occasion, my writing has been able to help others, so it could be thought of as selfish not to use the ability.

These layers make the question more about who we are as people.  Of course we would all like to do something we love over something we hate.  But, if you have the ability to use your super powers for good and you are not necessarily in love with the super power you got, do you owe it to the world to use them anyways?  If you wanted to be Superman but had to make it work as Wolverine, do you keep on trying to fly, when God put you here to conquer?

 

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20 Comments

    1. I love the way you phrased this question. When I teach about existentialism I use an example similar to this to discuss the concept of “good” faith-“bad” faith. I believe that writing can be a form of music…especially poetry. Poetry has roots in rhythm. In the bible, the psalms were sung – put to music. There is also a group on Youtube that took Blake’s poem, The Tyger and set it to music and it is fierce. They have done so with other classic poetry as well. I believe there can be a marriage in the gifts.

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  1. I feel like its the same thing with me and writing, because Im way more passionate about art. I think its just the way people were made, given gifts but also given passions, which can be gifts as well 🙂

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  2. I think if that something you can do with a gift but never chose to do ie wasn’t your passion yet by doing it either helped or brought joy to other people that I would chose that because the after effect upon humanity would be worth it and provide reward in itself x

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  3. For me it’s a complicated question, which is why I didn’t answer the first time you posed it.
    First, I’m really smart so there are a lot of subjects I learn easily. More than I could spend my life at. I don’t consider it my duty to somehow enhance the world with every gift I’ve been given. Seems to me most of us are given an array of talents and not enough time to excel at all of them. So everyone is probably going to choose one or two over the others.
    Like you, one of my talents is for music and through my youth and early adulthood, that was my main passion. I never became good at the type of music I’d prefer to do and didn’t have an interest in pursuing the kind of stuff I’d be good at. Many years have passed and, while I love music, I don’t even think about it as a career path any more and I don’t feel any loss.
    I’ve also been very good at writing all my life and, while I had thoughts about doing something with it, I never felt a push to pursue it. That talent, however, seems to be the one I’ve wound up using. Can’t say I feel a great passion for it, but it’s become a part of me. My mind is always composing a post, a chapter, an essay and I can’t imagine not writing. Whether it’s a gift the world needs… that’s another question.
    My love of good food has led me to learn ore and more about cooking. Among my friends I’ve developed a reputation as a great cook and periodically someone tells me I should open a restaurant. Nothing would make me hate it faster than having to do it all day every day. I love to produce a meal that brings smiles to people’s faces but I don’t need to do it more than occasionally. Do I owe the world my cooking because I’m good at it and regardless of how it would make me feel? If I do it because I feel I must, how will my hatred of it influence the impact on others?
    I’ve also found in hindsight and from a more serene place that many things abut which I was once passionate with a zeal to change the world arose from my issues more than the world’s need for me to fix it.
    To me it’s a question of balancing how I feel about the things I’m good at doing (and how I feel about the process of bringing it to “the world”) with offering something from among my “gifts” that could be of benefit.

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  4. The secret of happiness is something to do. Success is satisfaction in doing those things. I also play rhythm guitar and sing but I never tried something big. Now I am writing. So what I really mean is your success is your doings and not always becoming popular. Afterall it is a fact that the most talented people are not very famous.

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  5. Both. People should do both.
    I am thinking of Hans Christian Anderson. What he really wanted to do and really valued, were his plays. He wrote the fairy tales too, often with social commentary (The Emperor’s New Clothes), but the plays were what he considered most important. The world remembers the fairy tales, but he did both.
    Also, so much talent is not innate ….. it’s the product of a ton of work. I inherited my mother’s artwork. She did tons of art, multiple medias, all her life. She kept it all, too, I have the drawings back to high school. She worked at it every single day that I knew her. Success wasn’t about sales, she did art because it was her passion. She would have liked to sell more, but not if the sales part took away from drawing…..

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  6. I actually did respond to your earlier post but now i see i might not have gotten it in the way you intended.
    But i do feel strongly that the question you are asking is not one that you,i or any other human for that matter can or even should answer.Wondering what could be more beneficial to both the self and society whether it is doing what you love or what loved you is simply a reality we cannot fathom until we live through it.I am an actuarial student and as you can imagine quite obsessed with numbers and mathematical predictions but this is a typical ‘que sera sera’ moment.Where making the uninformed decision and getting on with it is the more beneficial than staying in neutral debating on the various available options.
    Because get this if you do what you love you will hone the skill and develop it and have a good time while at it and if not you could still go for what you can do and though you may not love it now,you might in the future and the kindling of the talent might open you up to new experiences and though harder it may lead to a discovery of a whole new self altogether.
    The point of all this verbosity is that at the end of it all you can not possibly know the competing values of both options on the outset and once you pick an option you may never know the opportunity cost of the road not taken or even want to.
    All options are valuable but the competitive nature of their values to us eludes us in every manner of way.

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  7. I think there’s an unwritten question in your question, Sreejit, which is the question of whether or not it is possible for what we truly love, in our hearts, to be separate in some way from our calling– with the calling perhaps being defined by particular skills, talents or proclivities that are given. Your question implies the answer is obviously yes, and we certainly all experience these types of schisms within ourselves. But I think to be perfectly honest, if one’s passion and one’s natural inclinations are misaligned, then it is a sure sign the thinking and desiring of the one in the middle are at some level rooted in conditioned thoughts and images. As an example, when we add to this matter the idea that we should become amazing at the particular trade or skill in which we invest our time, and we also have an idea or working definition of amazing that is correlated to particular states of success as described by worldly measures or quantities of people “helped”, I think that is where we start to go sideways.

    What is it to truly help someone? Some who have helped me the most surely did not feel helpful at the time. And if we live our lives as if caged, compromised between our desires and passions and the “things we do”, simply because it is our belief we’re more helpful that way, I think it would be all but impossible not to carry some resentment or bitterness forward in the acts. My opinion, in the end, is that we’re only truly helpful, as in transformatively helpful, when our hearts and our actions are aligned. There is tremendous power in any act or movement rooted in such an alignment. The rest of the time, if we are mentally doing what “we think is right”, while we may believe we are being helpful, we are merely acting out scenes at half speed.

    There is no set answer to this conundrum either, in my experience. Because I think we can give our hearts wholly to the present, regardless of what we’re doing, regardless of whether we think it is our thing or not.

    I think the refinement of skill, or degree of worldly accomplishment of the craft, are not the things at all, but that what matters is the manner in which it is given.

    Michael

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  8. sorry typo! flip! and other posts were a pleasure to read my superpower freeze failed on that occsion, sincere apologies that my previous comment contains an error that suggests accusation!

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  9. I think this is an age old question, one that humans have struggled with through the ages. I say that only because it is one of the major topics of The Bhagavad-gita which, some say, was originally composed 5000 years ago. And in that book, Krishna addressed the question “What should I do in my life” to Arjuna in a moment when he was very confused.
    The answer Krishna gave, of course, is not a formula (this is unfortunate, because I would love for God to drop down from the sky and just TELL ME CLEARLY WHAT TO DO! DAMN IT!) but rather Krishna gave some guidelines instead. Another difficulty with the answer Krishna gave is that society in ancient India was so different from ours today. Krishna referenced caste dharma in His answer which refers to the social duties that you are born into (and forced into, in a way). Today we don’t have so much caste (or class) dharma and so we have (or we are told that we have) great freedom to do whatever we want. But there are still controls today just as in ancient India as to what we actually CAN do and they take the form of financial needs that satisfy our need to eat and stay warm/healthy, etc.
    So Krishna first gave guidelines to remember when making the decision of what to do and then gave some instructions. The instructions are somewhat vague and have been debated upon by scholars through the ages as to what exactly they mean but the guidelines are SUPER clear. Krishna says that first and foremost we should always remember that whatever work we choose to do in life we should see as a sacrifice because ALL work in this world is imperfect by its very nature. Secondly Krishna says, we should remember that we own only the work that we do and not the results of that work so we should always remain EQUANIMOUS. We really don’t have the control that we would like, He said, and so we shouldn’t kid ourselves that our successes are “ours” or that our failures are “ours” either. Equanimity is the only reasonable attitude in response to this situation.
    Finally Krishna teaches that all work has its highest and most perfect expression as worship or celebration of the Divine. So, in effect, this means that it is not what we do but how we do it (our attitude) that really counts. Am I celebrating Life with a capital “L” when I do what I do? Of course, after considering these guidelines I am left with your original question of what work should I really be doing.
    I personally feel that I have to take into account both my talents and my socially imposed duties or responsibilities when determining my work. In other words, I ask “what am I good at?” AND “what has my life circumstance set up?” Who is in front of me to help, is asking for help, or is suited to receive the specific type of help I can give? What talents of mine can I call upon in order to respond to that help while retaining my best attitude in the process? If I can’t keep the right attitude I feel that I need to slow down.
    In truth, I don’t see any easy answers to figuring out what I should be doing (my work) in any given moment nor can I depend on an answer I settle upon right now to apply perfectly to tomorrow. For this reason, I take solace in Krishna’s guidelines: I don’t have to be great at the task of figuring our what work I should be doing and instead I should consider my attitude in whatever I am doing right now as the most important.

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  10. Joseph Campbell said that your path is the one you’re on. That’s why it’s called your path. I think that’s true. For example, I didn’t start out to be what I am, a spiritual teacher. I started out being a professional actor. But that gave me the poise and training to do what I do now. And too, if I’d fought to continue my life in New York, I wouldn’t be who I am now. When a door opened, I went through it. I learned to quit beating my head against a wall, thinking a door would magically appear. Kilaya said it well: be present in what we are doing now.

    It comes down to simple words: Trust the journey. Don’t be afraid. Trust.

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  11. I had to face this reality, I have invested many hours in learning the art of mechanics, yet although I love fixing broke things, I ain’t that good at it. I am good at cleaning things, and I do get a feeling of accomplishment when I complete a cleaning task, it ain’t the same as fixing a car or repairing a chair.

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