Wonder Saturday

Wow, it turns out that the Kurt Vonnegut quote I posted on last Tuesday’s philosophy post was, indeed, an actual quote by Kurt Vonnegut!  (There’s so many miss-attributed or just plain fabricated quotes out there, one never can quite be sure…)  Even better, here’s a reading of the whole letter in which it was contained by none other than Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellen!

 

Philosophy Tuesday

“When I was 15 I spent a month working on an archeological dig.  I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports?  What’s your favorite subject?   And I told him, no I don’t play any sports.  I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.  

And he went, “WOW.  That’s amazing! “

And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.” 

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them.  I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life.  Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them.  I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them. “

 — Three Rings

(I love this.  Pair it with some previous thoughts I shared on on art and self-expression, which also references the myth of Talent (or as I put it, the Tyranny of Talent).

The blog post by Three Rings also quoted a letter purportedly written by Kurt Vonnegut, which contained this lovely gem in it:

“Here’s an assignment for tonight… Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed.  Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

Now that’s an assignment!)