Audacity, n: A Case Study
Stop apologizing. You do it all the time and it’s not sexy.
Most of the time, the thing that gets in my way is, mostly, you. You keep having issues. You keep asking mundane questions and creating a climate of confusion preventing me from truly expressing the breadth of my vision, which has never had time to breathe because of all the suffocating remarks made about it by people who if they could just stay put for a few minutes they’d see exactly what kind of genius they’re in for.
Unfortunately I’ve never figured out my genius idea. I’ve never had the chance. Because of all of you, asking ill-timed and ill-conceived questions all the time.
Questions like, “What is it?” An impertinent question. As if you don’t already sense its genius in your water.
Questions like, “What do you need to make it?” It’s exactly questions like that killing art before it has time to breathe.
Questions like, “How can I help? Just tell me.” Do you even care about culture? How can you live with yourself, standing in the way of progress at the slightest glint in the eye of inventors and creators who only need room to breathe and they will build your dreams and tomorrows, if only allowed to do so and not prevented by the narrow and the plebian concerns of the agog masses with nothing better to do than spoon their creamed corn into ever larger puddles? Huh? You probably haven’t even heard of Abdullah Ibrahim. You bore me.
I met with a true artist today. He reminded me of certain stones. He didn’t have to apologize to anyone. He stood like a prow of a ship sunken in a harbor, unmoving before the unceasing tide, as solid as the spit of land that he had stuck on. He stood like a boulder in front of me and I’ll never forget what he had to say to me, with his voice falling out of his craggy face like hail falling out of an angry sky.
What he had to say was, “It’s time for some wake wake juice. Jesus — how does anyone do anything this early in the morning?”
He didn’t care. He was himself.
It was a beautiful thing. Most of us are frail, sea-swept fronds, barely capable of holding ourselves up under the weight of our own sense of self-loathing, anchored in place by the root of the fear of the doubt of the danger of maybe asserting ourselves in a direction that will attract the general shunning of all the other fronds. That’s if we even can choose a direction to spite the force of the tide of peer pressure, angling us every way the currents of public opinion blow us.
Most of us are fickle creatures, ruled by the indecision of trying to guess what everyone else wants us to believe. Which is why we all drink so heavily. We need the fluid, because it’s dehydrating to work so hard at being insecure, and we need the relaxants from how tightly we’re all clenching in fear that people will sneak up on us suddenly with a new public policy decision that fashion this week dictates it’s time to decry. We only know we believe anything because we bought the tee shirt to remind us.
Not this guy — this monolith of a man. He arrived, and he was entirely himself. He may as well have had Rock tattooed across his forehead, because he had no reason to be other than himself. If you had a problem with him that was your problem.
It was a beautiful, rare thing to see. To see someone so unabashedly himself that the world simply had to part and bow out of the way to let him pass by.
I saw this man, I heard what he had to say, and I came to two conclusions.
One, I am no where, anywhere, near or even close to brave enough to even stand near this man without swaying sideways against the heat wave rolling off his shoulders. And there is no shame in that. There is no shame in the human instinct for self-preservation or in the petulant urge to smile and pretend to possess half the sense of presence projected by what amounted to a man-shaped storm cloud.
The second thing I concluded, and I can think about it now from the safety of my home where I haven’t got a giant pointedly failing to judge me with such loud silences from across a little table, the second thing I concluded is that we can all learn from this monument to the triumph of the human species.
There is something simple to learn, and that is almost all of us fall short of excellence because we fail to conduct ourselves with the audacity of knowing we have no need to apologize for who we are.
I take comfort in that shared failing.