I came across two messages within minutes of each other last night, both speaking to qualities of being a great man.
I can’t say that I’ve considered the greatness of my manness before. I want my work to be great, but even that can be a tough sell, to myself anyway. We’re socialized to minimize ourselves and not shine confidence and self-love.
So that struggle is near-constant as a creator who is about processing the world and sending back subjective, possibly fallible insights of his own.
I too frequently have doubts about the greatness of my work, which I suppose I would somehow tie to the greatness of my being, if I were to get that far in my thinking. If for no other reason than that’s largely how we’re socialized, right? We’re shown that what we do equals our worth much more than who we be.
An example on my mind: A recurring doubt for me has to do with how my podcasting is perceived. I try not to think much about that, and I don’t necessarily want to draw your attention to something, if it hasn’t already gotten your attention, but here’s a thing that sits in the back of my mind: my sometimes wordiness.
Which, I think is supported by thoughtfulness, but strictly and objectively speaking, I use more words than many. I know this.
For example, someone can ask me a yes or no question, and they might get a minutes’ long answer. Depends on the question, of course. And on who is asking it.
Depending on perspective, my wife, Becca, especially is either super-fortunate or super-not. She tends to get the long versions of most things I talk about.
For that matter, though, any given person who has listened to me on a podcast might think I say more than is necessary when, say, setting up a question for a guest. But I generally hedge on the side of thorough clarity in conversation, rather than a shortness that leaves things open to potential misinterpretation.
You know, why disrupt communication, whether in text with a friend, email with a coworker or on a podcast, with half-ass thoughts that make the recipient have to work harder to guess at what I mean or half to ask for clarification of simple things I could have and probably should have said from the get go?
Now, there have been times I have concerned myself with such things as being too wordy, too long in prefacing a question I’m asking a podcast guest. I don’t want to turn away listeners from the podcasts that I run. There are two now, Humanitou and We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream.
But I also have felt no need, at least lately, to apologize for the fact that I appreciate thorough communication. Or to apologize for others’ limited or distracted attention spans.
So, what to do?
Well, back to the two messages that I came across last night about greatness in a man. This one from the novelist Henry Miller validates my verbose tendencies:
“Show me a man who over-elaborates and I will show you a great man… What is called their ‘over-elaboration’ is my meat: it is the sign of struggle, it is struggle itself with all the fibers clinging to it, the very aura and ambiance of the discordant spirit.
“And when you show me a man who expresses himself perfectly I will not say that he is not great, but I will say that I am unattracted …
“When I reflect that the task which the artist implicitly sets himself is to overthrow existing values, to make of the chaos about him an order which is his own, to sow strife and ferment so that by the emotional release, those who are dead may be restored to life, then it is that I run with joy to the great and imperfect ones. Their confusion nourishes me. Their stuttering is like divine music to my ears.”
So, along with that, given how too often I can be tough on myself and the quality and value of my work, a good portion of which gets put out in public, there’s this pithy gem from Confucius, my message No. 2:
“A great man is hard on himself. A small man is hard on others.”
So what can I possibly take away from these angel-sent messages that landed in front of me just moments apart from each other? Well, I think I can only conclude: They are two proofs that I am, in fact, a great man.
And as Bill Murray’s character said in the movie “Caddyshack,” about the Dalai Lama promising him total consciousness when he’s on his deathbed, “So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”