Too Bad About Your Gift, Bro (Sis)

Better luck next life…

An acclaimed young architect, with signature projects having been built, with his mind blooming with visions of constructions yet to be, finds that he is less and less able to draw. After years of intense training and the honing of a unique skill, a brain surgeon notices, not long after her 30th birthday, that she’s sometimes a bit clumsy with her scalpel. An ethical young lion of business finds herself hesitant, unable to make up her mind, while the dynamic teacher faces his class and finds, in the second decade of his dream career, that he doesn’t really know what to say to the kids anymore.

These are local tragedies, but what’s up? How does this happen? There must have been an existential earthquake. Cancer, a brain aneurysm, Lou Gehrig’s disease, something dreadful has suddenly snatched away or disabled someone’s essential gift. What a pity! It’s unjust, dispiriting. It just shouldn’t happen like that. If we are wealthy, we fear losing our money and possessions. When we love, we worry about the loss of the beloved one. And if we have a great gift, and we know it, our greatest fear is having that gift abandon us. (Of course, there are those who neglect or abuse their gift: the sellout songwriter without a thing to say after a string of popular hits, the monster athlete who loves bars and strip joints and can’t find the gym. This is not about that.) The imaginary designer, the doctor, the tycoon and the educator above, through no fault of their own, have had their way to shine snuffed out far too soon. We all agree that this would be awful for them, to say nothing of the loss to society.

But then, why dwell on a hypothetical sudden loss for imaginary professionals? Such things happen, of course, and hey, it sucks, but it’s just one of those weird things, we would probably say, just a lonely little box of bad luck. Most of their peers, and most of ours, work for as long as they want, potentially well past standard retirement ages. But listen: imagine if this happened to everybody in a given profession. It’s not difficult, actually. It happens to every professional athlete.

Given the absurdly high salaries that the top jocks pull down, it’s not fashionable to spare much pity in their direction, but it’s hard for them, all the same. Money can’t buy happiness, and fame doesn’t take away the pain (“it just pays the bills”, as Fred Eaglesmith sings). I think about this a lot.

Comments (4)

  1. michael freeman

    Interesting topic but I need context! Where? Why? How did this topic arise? What is the hidden context? I was intrigued right to the end of the second paragraph. Why not consider the booze addled individual that has lost perspective on what is important, the furtherance or at least the propelgation of their gift. Why not compare and contrst the athelete that loses his way to the gym with the one that does not, and still burns out. Albeit a few years older and a few bucks richer. Does either end up happy, or happier than the other?
    Exploring the concept of ‘gift’; its nature of remaining hidden to the possessor while glaring and obvious to the outside onlooker. What relationship is there between gift and happiness? Does the gift leave us or do we leave the gift; do we become weary or disenchanted with our gift? Is that when our fears take over and emptiness creaps in?
    There is a story behind this story. Maybe it needs to be told.

    • Ah, Mr. Freeman, there are a *million* stories behind this story, and any screen-grab made during a pro sports games has a few dozen juicy ones just waiting to be told. Some of them, too, happen at Erlind’s restaurant, say, or the back of the Jarvis hotel during CornFest. I should write a book!

      • michael freeman

        Shouldn’t we both. Cornfest live on although I do not know when. I think at the end of summer, when corn gets picked. Erlind lives on. I go in once in a while. I taught all of the owners children! And her step daugther when she re-shacked up. The old American, or Bronchos. Bronchos lives on but the old Jarvis hotel is gone, years ago. But I still see the old owner, Jack, every so often.
        Although there is a story behind every play and every player, I am not too interested in looking for it. I like sports but am not a sports guy.
        I pretend to be inquisitive and learned, but can never keep up in conversations.
        But questions like “what happens to one’s gift” always catches my interest. I think that there is where the story lies. When a promising lawyer finds himself graduating top of his class only to leave the profession within 10 years, burnt out and disillusioned; where and when and how did he lose what once brought him great focus and a comfortable life? When a teacher leaves the profession after 3 years to become a yard maintainence worker and is much, much happier toiling in the dirt than trying to mine for gold in a student’s mind. Did they ever have a gift for or in those professions? What constitutes a gift? Did the drunk falling off his bar stool every night ever know what his gift was, or did he lose sight of what his gift was because of fear, or pressure, or risk of succeeding? Or did he just settle.

        The concept of gift is elusive but worth chasing for a while.

  2. Guoxiaoqiang

    Continuous learning is essential. You will know what will happen at the next street corner.

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