Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Brief Thoughts on Mediocrity

You pigs, you. You rut like pigs, is all. You got the most in you, and you use the least. You hear me, you? Got a million in you and spend pennies. Got a genius in you and think crazies. Got a heart in you and feel empties. All a you. Every you… …Take a war to make you spend. Take a jam to make you think. Take a challenge to make you great. Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you. Pigs, you! All right, God damn you! I challenge you, me. Die or live and be great. Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me, Gully Foyle, and I make you men. I make you great. I give you the stars. - Gulliver Foyle; The Stars my Destination

Mediocrity is an issue for me. Mediocrity, by one definition, means “of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.” By another definition, it means “not satisfactory; poor; inferior.” The thing about mediocrity is that once it's accepted, it can go on to generate a trend in your life. Paraphrasing (as I don't remember the exact message, only the gist of it) what my AP History teacher, Mr. Burke, had said to us roughly 10 years ago: you can be mediocre now, and go on to a mediocre school, get a mediocre job, a mediocre car, a mediocre house, a mediocre wife, and a mediocre life. And that's fine, if that's what you're comfortable with.

The reason why mediocrity is an issue for me, though, is that it's REALLY BORING! Yes, you can live life sitting solidly in mediocrity, but what the hell is the point? What does it serve you to “just get by” all the time? I'd rather live extraordinarily. In fact, that's just about all that I respect and revere. Life is short, so why am I going to waste it by doing and witnessing the average? I want to see and do the spectacular, the passionate, the dynamic, and the strange.

That's why I study what I study: the average for the Universe is the extraordinary when compared to what happens on Earth. That's not even the whole of it though, because the physics that I study also applies to what we experience on Earth and makes that extraordinary. I guess what I really want is to see the extraordinary in existence. That seems truer to my desire. Physics and astronomy have given me the tools and the practice necessary to train my mind's eye to see the world as more than just what it first appears to be. Yellow paint isn't just yellow paint to me; yellow paint is a liquid composition of various atoms and molecules whose bonds are configured in such a way where that liquid absorbs the majority of all other visible radiation, but reflects wavelengths corresponding to the color yellow into my eye. That liquid itself is composed of billions of billions of billions (this is a low-ball estimate by the way) of atoms and molecules, all vibrating, rotating, stretching, and compressing, bouncing off of one another in a beautifully random dance. And each atom within those molecules is itself a universe of the extraordinary, with the individual physics governing each electron and each atomic nucleus.  The nucleus itself is further another realm of spectacular events, and all the way downward in scale.  All within yellow paint.

The ordinary--the mediocre--simply moves life forward to the next step.  The extraordinary--being the extraordinary, seeing the extraordinary, living the extraordinary--makes life worth living.

With that said, I leave you with a couple of quotes from books by the author of the quote at the top of the page, Alfred Bester.  He's written two of my favorite books, and has a few things to say about greatness.

“If a man's got talent and guts to buck society, he's obviously above average. You want to hold on to him. You straighten him out and turn him into a plus value. Why throw him away? Do that enough and all you've got left are the sheep.”

“There's got to be more to life than just living," Foyle said to the robot.

"Then find it for yourself, sir. Don't ask the world to stop moving because you have doubts."

"Why can't we all move forward together?"

"Because you're all different. You're not lemmings. Some must lead, and hope that the rest will follow."

"Who leads?"

"The men who must...driven men, compelled men."

"Freak men."

"You're all freaks, sir. But you always have been freaks. Life is a freak. That's its hope and glory.” 

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