The Comfort of Mediocrity

We had all noticed Frieda’s tendency.  Something about weaving caught her interest; the next thing we knew she had a loom in the middle of her studio apartment, and every conversation somehow wound its way to the virtues of hand-spun fiber.  Before we knew it she had given the loom away and there was a potter’s wheel with its attendant clay splattering on the walls!  Then: an expensive set of 13 pots and pans and dinners that featured haggis, chicken’s feet or blood pudding; a mini-printing press and ink-smudges around the doorknob of her front door; book-binding which resulted in misshapen Christmas gifts.  Once, when I asked her about this apparent flitting from interest to interest, she replied, “I’d rather nibble everything than limit myself to just one thing.”  What I heard her words say was, “I’d rather settle for mediocrity.”

I suppose that there are a number of things that can make mediocrity seem attractive: being able to disengage when inconvenience comes a-knocking; knowing that when the “new” becomes the “known” one can always set off in pursuit of that which “sparkles”; being able to view oneself positively, as one willing to always “start over.”  The problem with this approach… as I see it… is that one always lives on the level of an unlimited potentiality which never attains to a lived actuality!  In other words: the issue of fantasy versus reality.

I once watched two episodes of the television series “Transparent”, and in one of them the Moira character (played by Jeffrey Tambor) observed: “My kids are so selfish.  I don’t know how it is that I raised three people who cannot see beyond themselves.”  Equally as dismaying as it can be to realize that our kids are selfish people, can be the realization that we are selfish, especially when we never thought this of ourselves!  After all, we never casually toss litter, we don’t leave the water running while brushing our teeth, and we never drive over the speed limit!  In short… as we see it… we are a “good” person.  For anyone who is intellectually curious, this observation then brings up the issue of: What does being “good” actually mean?

I suspect that I will, most probably, never rise to Mother Teresa’s level of goodness or selflessness, but I am keenly aware that each day I can try to be better than I was the day before.  Being a “good” person rarely arrives full-blown out of the sky; for me the issue is not that of being a Saint but rather that of the daily struggle to not be as bad as I have been!  One cannot struggle each day to be a better person while settling for mediocrity, whose sole purpose is to make the individual feel virtuous without the inconvenience of discomfort!

I will give Frieda one thing: her passing interests did make us all aware that there are more things in life than many of us were aware of!  At the same time, I cannot say that haggis was a pleasant discovery!

Kahu Kimo

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