Friday, March 6, 2009

enforced mediocrity

In the newspaper office where I work, I was talking to Tommy, a good-natured reporter whose desk abuts with mine.

"What do you think is the most difficult thing about all this?" he asked, referring to the fact that the newspaper is dying by leaps and bounds. With advertising revenue drying up, there are fewer and fewer people to do the same amount of work. And I replied, "Enforced mediocrity ... the fact that we have little or no chance to do our jobs well." Tommy nodded.

His question made me think of the ways in which human beings enforce their own mediocrities and yet yearn for something, some accomplishment, some understanding that is not mediocre ... something that doesn't fall short of the kind of peace that might be had. Something uncompromising and uncompromised. Something light and free.

That yearning for something uncompromised and the mediocrities that seem to bar the door to fulfilling that yearning are as apparent in spiritual endeavor as anywhere else, I think. But perhaps the mediocrities are more confounding and more irritating because in the case of spiritual endeavor, we have no convenient scapegoats -- no boss or company or set of circumstances to complain about or blame. We may search in vain for someone or something to praise or blame -- some emotional yowl or intellectual intricacy -- but the search itself is tinged with mediocrity: There is no one else to blame ... or praise.

And yet we search out some responsible party...someone or something else. Yes-but's pepper the landscape. If only I had time... If only I were nicer... If only I were enlightened... If only I could see things in some other way... If only ... if only...if only.

It is a profoundly human exercise, I think -- wanting the fruit without reaching up to pluck it; longing for the imagined results without making the necessary effort; wanting to be well without taking the medicine we ourselves might prescribe. We may be involved in a holy or uncompromising quest ... but don't ask me to leave my mediocre easy chair.

It's just human. Not a matter for criticism. Just human... to long for excellence and excel at our own mediocrities.

It's just human.

But I think it may be worth noticing.

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