Thursday, November 16, 2006

Not unlike cheating

I'm short of time this morning so I shall fulfil the terms if not the spirit of NaBloPoMo with a pair of quotes. There may be a second, "real" post later on.

People who've done great things tend to seem as if they were a race apart. And most biographies only exaggerate this illusion, partly due to the worshipful attitude biographers inevitably sink into, and partly because, knowing how the story ends, they can't help streamlining the plot till it seems like the subject's life was a matter of destiny, the mere unfolding of some innate genius. In fact I suspect if you had the sixteen year old Shakespeare or Einstein in school with you, they'd seem impressive, but not totally unlike your other friends.

Which is an uncomfortable thought. If they were just like us, then they had to work very hard to do what they did. And that's one reason we like to believe in genius. It gives us an excuse for being lazy. If these guys were able to do what they did only because of some magic Shakespeareness or Einsteinness, then it's not our fault if we can't do something as good.

I'm not saying there's no such thing as genius. But if you're trying to choose between two theories and one gives you an excuse for being lazy, the other one is probably right.

Paul Graham, What you'll wish you'd known

That last sentence deserves to be printed out in 72-point and hung on the wall.

The next excerpt came to mind this morning while I was washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. (The scene is the beginning of a telephone converation between old friends who haven't seen each other in years.)

"This is Dangerfield."

"Say that again."

"This is Dangerfield."

"Just once more."

"This is Dangerfield."

"And are you - for the sake of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who wasted his RH-negative blood on miserable sinners like us - in London?"

J.P.Donleavy, "The Ginger Man," quoted from memory so feel free to correct me

I'm not sure why I should have remembered it today, in that context, some twenty years after I read the book (a delightfully disgusting tale, I found it quite funny at the time).

Sixteen down, fourteen to go.


Blogger Antonia said...

oh these are interesting quotes, especially the one above....was really quite also nietzsche's idea on genius, the one above...

November 16, 2006 at 2:51:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Anxious said...

Durr! I've only just realised what your footnote countdown refers to! I am thick...

*Love* the first quote. But it makes me feel lazy... ;)

November 16, 2006 at 3:25:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger brooksba said...

The first quote is wonderful! Makes one realize that instead of believing greatness and genius will just arrive one day will never be a reality without putting in the hard work. Nice.

November 16, 2006 at 9:20:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Eh. I'm lazy. I'm cool with that.

November 17, 2006 at 6:37:00 p.m. GMT+1  

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