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Wednesday, December 08, 2004 AD
'Then I Shall Really Be Able to Play for You!'
I find that line, spoken by Marianne in "Sense and Sensibility," very striking every time I watch the film because it's delivered without a trace of conceit. Marianne knew a) that she had an exceptional talent, and b) that those around her also knew that she had an exceptional talent, and appreciated it. You see the same sort of thing in Pride and Prejudice when Jane gets engaged and speaks artlessly of the pleasure she knows it will give her friends and family. Again, not a hint of self-centeredness. (Of course there are counterexamples in Austen -- Emma's Mrs. Elton, full of false humility, and P&P's Mary, empty of true talent, but let's leave them out of it for the moment.)

Why is it I can't imagine saying the same sorts of things? Why would it sound so arrogantly presumptuous in this day and age to assume that others would want to hear my musicianship?

First, we've lost any sense of the objectivity of beauty or talent, so I don't even really know if my singing is worth hearing. When people say it is, I don't know whether to trust them...what do they know? One might say, "But you blog, doesn't that indicate an assumption that what you write is worth hearing?" Maybe, but not in the same way. Blogging is non-intrusive. Nobody has to come read this. Nobody who reads it has to pretend they like it. Y'all aren't a captive audience. It's not the same as saying, "Oh, wouldn't it be great if y'all were stuck in a room with me and I pulled out my guitar?" (That said, I did promise to sing Sora's "Mom of Constant Laundry" for Karen, and there's a fellowship dinner at her house on Sunday, so I may do just that!)

Second, in our hyper-egalitarianized society, we've lost any sense that someone can be better than anyone at anything, so to think that you might be must automatically mean you're egocentric.

Third, because we've gotten rid of objectivity, we don't really care about ability, but we haven't really been able to rid ourselves of inequality, so we've replaced talent with celebrity in our system of social virtues. As a result, we've gotten a whole lot of celebrities without real talent, yet we go on adoring them in their vapidity.

While I've been composing this post in my head for a few days, a fourth point didn't occur to me 'til I read this this morning. Marianne's talent might not have allowed her to be her era's equivalent of an international pop star, but in a small community without the 21st century's multitude of multimedia technology, it was something to be highly valued. Even moreso, perhaps, than a pop star, because she was theirs. God gives us gifts -- whether natural or spiritual -- so we can in turn be gifts to our neighbors. The self-esteem movement has it wrong in part because it tells us to feel good about ourselves in a vaccuum. "It's a Wonderful Life" has it right in part because it shows us how being a part of a community is a key aspect of what makes a man's life one that's worth living.
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 12/08/2004 09:52:00 PM • Permalink

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