Sorting the Pebbles of a Mountain

Socrates once asked, is something just because the gods love it, or do they love it because it is just? It’s a worthy question, and extensive.

For example, one could also ask, am I against something because it is wrong, or is it wrong because I’m against it? The answer is certainly, it depends, which means we would be wise to reflect when it is one and when the other.

Reflection, particularly self-reflection, takes work. It takes time, too, which means we must pursue it in lieu of something else. To say it another way, self-reflection requires the discipline to practice.

It requires a great deal of practice for it is probably the most difficult mental activity in the world. Not maths. Not philosophy. Certainly not writing.

The evidence is simple. People who are good at all those things still have difficulty with self-reflection. Indeed, the more acclaimed someone is, the more difficult it is to set ego aside.

Artists often intend to shock their viewers into a state of reflection. This only ever works within a particular cultural frame. Art that was shocking a thousand, or even a hundred, years ago is droll today.

Where the artist fails, she is pilloried. But this failure is always atomic, individual. Even where groups of people gather with torches and pitchforks, each person’s reaction is private.

Success, then, seems a lot like sorting the pebbles of a mountain. It takes time and patience, neither of which I have in abundance.

I also have no special talent for self-reflection or the ability to shock others into it, so I am drawn to those who do. They congregate in the visual and performing arts, which is probably why I prefer the company of artists and musicians to my colleagues, who tend towards a suburban progressivism.


And as an introvert, performing presents itself as insurmountable as the sky. I admire–just short of envy–those who are that reckless.

But I’m trying. I’m reflecting on my inhibitions, particularly my fear of failure, because in the end, whether I am writing what the gods love or not is a question only I can answer.

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