Every once in awhile I toss out one of my posts, or a link to it, onto some likely place on the Internet. If I blog about a fly (and me) and stumble across a thriving entomology website I might put a link there. It's a bit like fishing. Wait, it's a bit like fishing really ineffectively. Let's say I post a link on that entomology website. If it's a hotbed of activity, and I bait the link well, maybe 150 people will hit the link over to my site to see what's up. I probably lose more than half in the first glance, or first sentence. Some other mass of the remaining 75 drops off along the way. A few people make it through to the end of said essay. One person out of the 150 checks out a few of my other posts, and if I gather maybe ten or 15 of those singular people together from multiple subject specific linking expeditions (so, roughly, out of 1500 people) perhaps one of them might, sort of, if everything comes together really well, follow my blog regularly (Hi! I'm so sorry I analogized you to a fish!). I am not complaining.Well, I used to complain, but right now, not so much.
I have spent most of my life in the arts, painting, drawing, writing, cartooning, even a short bit of music. When I look around the culture it is filled with artists who have set the world on fire. When I look around at the sizable collection of all the people I have ever known who are, in some way, artists (which is a not insignificant portion), none of them have set the world on fire. None. These are really hard things to reconcile. I have had to use my scientific brain to get anywhere in understanding this. On one hand, famous, zeitgeist, magical, rich, artists are everywhere. On the other hand, in my world, they don't even exist as a freakish aberration. Do you personally know Lady Gaga? Are you Lady Gaga? No, but likewise, you never pop over for tea at Mary Oliver's house either. Why don't you? Because there are, like, 10,000 famous artists (I counted), and there are six billion people. As I figure it, extremely roughly, you will need to meet 600,000 people to meet one quite famous and successful artist. That's a lot of hand shaking and "How're you doing?" You better get going. If you want to be one of those famous artist people you are going to have to go through 600,000 reincarnation cycles. More if you're no good at staying in species. It could easily take you 39 million years!
So, here's the thing. I always thought I belonged in the famous artist category. But as I started to get a little space between my feverish desire to be a rich, acclaimed genius and just living, I started to develop the beginnings of an ability to look at all this in a more "How things are" instead of "How I want things to be." And I found something like this:
One post I wrote recently was about Bob Dylan visiting the Library. Lo and behold, among the many, many websites devoted to him there is one called Expecting Rain that is very prominent. So I plopped one of my links there under a category I invented called "Dylan in the wild." Within a couple days a couple hundred people went over to look at my little essay. How many read it, I don't know, but they went and looked. How nice. A small few of them left comments over on the Expecting Rain message board where it was posted. raging_glory said "Thanks, I enjoyed your interesting perspective." mjeff said "Sort of interesting." and Still Go Barefoot said "Yawn."
What would my assessment of the Dylan at the Library essay have been? I won't tire you out, but it would have included powerful agents and publishing houses pounding desperately on my door, 4 million hits in two days, and lots of fuss. It took me a really long time, for a number of reasons in my life, to come to terms with the fact that I am a highly biased and unreliable assessor. But beginning to come to terms with that also allows me to step out of the fray. Stepping out of the fray lets me see not only that I am not on the verge of setting the world on fire, it also allows me to see that the world is pretty wet. It allows me to see that Raging_glory, mjeff, and Still Go Barefoot are about what it is for me, with what I make, sometimes better, sometimes worse, and it allows me to care so much less. Furthermore it allows me to do what I do from a little bit better and a little more pure place.
Of course, I still do care a bit. I did, after all, go look at that message board to see if anyone had anything to say. And I still kind of hate Still Go Barefoot. "Yawn"? What an asshole!