Concerning Talent

960 640 Elisabeth Karsten

Every one of us has at least one talent that expresses our personal magnificence in a unique way.  However it´s not always the talent we desire.

Talent shows are burgeoning

TV shows like “Britain´s got talent”, “American Idol”, “The Voice” and “Germany is looking for the superstar” are extremely popular. Especially the format “…got talent” developed by the British Simon Cowell is currently produced and broadcast by over 70 countries – according to Wikipedia. The high ratings on TV as well as the high viewing figures on youtube later own, show just how popular our talents seem to be.

Furthermore these programs clearly have a “bread and circuses” aspect. It is far more entertaining and comfortable to pay attention to them than to the planned introduction of G5, the dying of insects or the inexorable growth of our population. However  these things generally have a much larger impact on our daily life and our wellbeing than the success or failure of this and that singer, magician or dancer. But to deal with G5, the dying of insects and the consequences of the growth of our population requires research and face some unpleasant facts. Very few do that voluntarily and rarely happily.

But consuming talent shows requires no knowledge. Your personal taste is enough, to share the thrill whoever is accepted first by the jury and then by the viewers and finally comes out on top. The debates about quality and performance are intense – i.e. in youtube comments. And it becomes clear: just about all have their fans and foes. Sometimes professional artists comment on their wannabe colleagues and inform the rest about the allegedly major or minor achievement…

We can feel if a talent is in harmony with creation

And it repeatedly becomes clear: most candidates have a united majority behind – or against them. For independently of the more or less present judgement competence there is our feeling. Almost all of us can feel whether whatever a performance is really good or not.  Especially, if there is no bias. For “good” creates a pleasant feeling, “bad” an unpleasant one. And that rather rarely has something to do with a professional quality but very much with the degree of genuine originality and authenticity.

We can feel, if it really matches the person who expresses herself in that way. We can even sense if it is a harmonious expression of creation. Particularly when something happens that we all like so much: being moved in a seemingly magical way. This can actually last for days and is often prolonged by repeated watching of the clips online.

However, if this feeling does not occur, and it becomes clear that the performer has more enthusiasm than skill, perhaps even more a hunger for attention than a willingness to achieve something, then he is rejected. The worse he is, the less compassion can be expected. And I wonder why does somebody so desperately want to become a singer or dancer when his talent most probably lies in a totally different area?

Talents are subject to an odd evaluation

The icons of our Western culture are actors, singers and athletes. They become pop stars and are all representatives of the entertainment industry. None of them is celebrated because he saved the lives of others, prevented a disaster or enabled children to have a future. They sometimes do it as a consequence of their fame and fortune. Sometimes they also get awards for this – but they would hardly be known without their prominence in other areas.

eine verblühte Rose - das Ende vom Glück Also most of their media attention is not gained by some award for their achievements but rather, when private issues are spectacularly brought to the public. For example, when their marriage fails or they have a terrible accident or some such misfortune. And then the shadow side of the collective attention makes its appearance: as much as many enjoyed the succeeding of these people, now they just as much enjoy their suffering…

And then that breaks forth that was hardly noticeably in the shared thrill of their rise: envy. But there seems to be a principle of the masses: as long as somebody struggles, s/he is one of us. But when s/he is doing well and probably better than most, then s/he belongs to the enemy camp. So the fall is rather met with delight – for than s/he is one of us again. Then all are the same again – in the struggle for…more!

Talents are demanding

But this contains a contradiction: on the one hand striving to be special, to stick out from the aforementioned mass and being recognized for it. On the other hand the primal human need to belong – be part of something. Then being “special “ can be dangerous, for it can mean exclusion.

However, all of us have at least one talent, whether we live it or not, whether others recognize it or not. It makes us who we are. It is an expression of the voice of our soul. In my opinion it is one of the most rewarding things in life to explore that. As is obvious from my previous blog article, I am a huge fan of what makes us unique. For in my opinion this is the most constructive contribution we can make to our community and it should really be promoted and honoured.

What is a talent actually?

Talent originally meant a unit of weight or currency – an asset for growth. Only later did it mean gift. But understood in this sense it means that of which we can make most – in ideal circumstances. Unfortunately that is in no way part of our education system. Only if a talent happens to match certain areas like sports, science and sometimes art, can the child receive according support.

But many of us have talents that don´t fit into any award catalogue and will never be considered for a special recognition. Last by the talent owner himself – to him or her the ability often seems natural. Like people who have a special gift as a mother, teacher or nurse and inspire their environment. They are often admired, sometimes envied and occasionally even copied but rarely honoured in an appropriate manner.

And then there are the ‘natural talents’ in all areas, who make it into the limelight without any special training. Just because they have that certain something. On occasion this can result in an interesting friction. Like when the star and natural actor Leonardo di Caprio portrays the French king Louis IVX and his “musketeers” are no lesser people than the first class actors, who can put a spell even on a theatre audience due to their own talent and trained skill. An example is the film “The Man in the Iron Mask” (USA 1998). The Englishman Jeremy Irons, the Irishman Gabriel Byrne, the Frenchman Gerard Depardieu and the American John Malkovich can turn a lengthy speech by the young king into dust simply by clearing their throat.

However none of the four are a match to di Caprio when it comes to salary and popularity. If we were truly living in a culture where people were paid by their actual skill and not their media effectiveness, we would have a very different world.

A talent can have an effect on many

Under certain circumstances talent can earn you an international fan community. This applies to pop stars like Michael Jackson or Madonna, world wide known classical musicians and opera singers, like Lang Lang and Anna Netrebko and sometimes even to particular artists like Christo and Jeanne-Claude or the mime Samy Molcho. That also very definitely applies to athletes who with their victories excite entire generations about their sport.

However, there are also wonderful talents in daily life. Like being good at cleaning, swiftly making complicated hairdos and effortlessly being able to understand the lyrics of a pop song on the radio. These make the life of the talent owner often easier and are often enough the foundation of his profession. And of course it is wise to do something as a profession, you are better at than other. Talents can be possible clue. Furthermore the joy in doing so.  For there are also talents that are not particularly joy inducing, like being good at giving injections. Just as you can have a lot of fun in things where you have little or no talent. I for instance never was a gifted ballet dancer rather more of an enthusiastic tutu-activist.

Talents can be a blessing and a curse at the same time

And then there are the more exceptional talents, that can bring a lot of joy, but can also cause stress. For instance if you´re good at making others laugh, people will expect that from you all the time. Even if you don´t feel like being funny. Or to have a particulary fine sense of smell and having to deal with all the more or less obtrusive perfumes in an opera audience or the scents of sweat in a full bus in summer…

I also want to mention the American singer Florence Foster-Jenkins here. In her personal perception she was a gifted singer. Furthermore she had an unswerving enthusiasm about her art. But in the perception of others she lacked a complete sense of tone and rhythm. But due to her enthusiasm and her fortune – her father left her quite a lot of money – she prevailed in public. A number of great stage productions and movies have come out about this. So I won´t explore this more deeply here. Besides, my focus is something else: I believe her actual talent was her imperturbable love for herself as a singer. That is actually what put the unfathomable spell on others…

How you deal with your talent has consequences

There are people who turn a mediocre talent into a super career. Others only have mediocre career despite a super talent. Some talents, especially if they are of a physical, artistic or craft nature can be refined greatly with exercise and training and become more valuable.

Talent can also not be equated with glamour, fame and success. These can be a side effect, but no guarantee. The reverse also applies:  Glamour, fame and success are not necessarily attached to a talent. Unless, the ability to make yourself media fodder can be considered a talent.

Furthermore certain talents can be applied in various ways. A talent for the mechanism of locks can make you a masterful bank vault guardian or a successful burglar… Also a talent for mountain climbing or deep sea diving require a careful handling for talent is no protection against dangers. Not for yourself or others.

Talent and character correlate

Unfortunately some lack the foresight to perceive the dark side of a brilliant talent and to avoid them. For a technological, biological or medical talent is not necessarily accompanied by an understanding for mankind or conscious awareness. This then always contains the danger that a genius idea can be turned into something terrible, like nuclear fission into a nuclear bomb.

Among the most talented people I´ve met so far are some that also have a remarkable sense of humility and humbleness. They consider it a grace that there is something coming through them rather than from them. Usually they also do not identify with what emerges and concede a value of its own to it – independently from them. This also makes them less susceptible to criticism. They express – as well as they can. How others react to it is their issue.

So the effect of our talent is strongly connected to how we treat it. This in turn is determined by our nature and our attitude towards life and our fellow human beings.

Talents contain a request by our soul

I believe it is of existential importance for us and our lives to explore our talents, develop and express them. For we never have them without reason. Often they actually contain the key to the unfolding of our highest potential and why we actually came into our current life. Not living a talent can than be like a betrayal of life. We deny ourselves and the world something essential.

It can actually make us ill or even lead to death to not live a certain talent. I also witnessed that. When people, fo whatever reason, ignore the needs of their soul and live according to some norm or notion of how life has to be. That is a kind of suicide of the soul and frequently also ends with a premature physical death.

To explore and live your own talents ist not always easy and definitely not automatically crowned with public recognition. Some people have talents that the society does not consider particularly pleasant. But it is exactly those talents that defines them and demands a difficult life from them. And they surrender to it, for if they didn´t, they would be even unhappier. For instance people who risk their life for the truth, like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. For their inner peace they accept external disharmony. I find that admirable.

Often fears block our talents

Sometimes our greatest talents are blocked by our greatest fears. The author and spiritual teacher Michael Roads struggled for a long time with his fear of public speaking. When he was still an active organic farmer, he was listening to a talk. Suddenly he was asked by the speaker to answer the question from another audience member for he considered Roads more competent in the matter than himself. With shaking legs Roads walked to the front and firmly held on to the speaker´s desk, being slightly irritated by the many smiles that were greeting him. Only later did he realize that everybody was able to see his shaking knees under the table. By now Roads has been giving talks himself for many years in front of hundreds of people all over the world. He doesn´t need a script nor anything else to hold on to. Capturing an audience with his speech is clearly one of his talents, but it was long hidden by fears and trauma.

In my opinion we actually have an obligation to get to know ourselves better. This also includes discovering our talents, developing them and expressing them to the max. For this not only contributes to your own fulfilment, but also motivates others to express their own nature more strongly. People who live their talents – no matter what area – are extremely inspiring. They are then often recommended and shared with others – may they be a great musician, dentist or even politician…

Our greatest talent lies in the expression of our own essence

I am convinced that we all have the talent to live our own life in a masterful way. This alone has a positive effect on others. Furthermore many of us have talents that can serve the many and should. Actually many talents only truly come to fruition in connection with others. And this does not only apply to the entertainment industry.

I have a hunch that there lies a hidden talent in some of these people, who believe they want to be a singer or dancer. A talent that is possibly fare more valuable and effective. If, for example, all the brilliant inventors, farmers, logistic experts and zoologists were to receive the same kind of attention as our current pop stars and they would be furthermore supported and encouraged in their actions, our society would have clearly moved a step forward.

As a matter of fact that would be a talent show to my liking: who is most convincing with his suggestion how to deal with G5, the dying insects and the population growth in a constructive and life affirming way. Conveying a good idea in a fascinating way doesn´t have to take longer than singing a pop song….

This will probably be a while… but many things begin with an idea!


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