It is a fact that all of us have more potential than we give ourselves credit for.
It is also a fact that we have different potential at different ages.
When I tried kuchipudi dancing a decade ago, arthritis and asthma stopped me from going past the first set of lessons. I’m sure Stephen Hawking can’t dance anymore.
I’m glad I tried, I’m glad I did what I could, but I do wish that I had done it when I was younger.
Johhny Depp and Tom Cruise are world famous, have lots of fans and lots of great work to their credit.
I had a potential for acting that I never developed. Of course there was this feature documentary “An Epoch Without Summer” (A movie about nuclear winter). So I do have something I did when I was young.
I think potential is a combination of talent and energy.
To translate potential into achievement there is something else needed. People talk of hard work. But there is more to it than hard work.
There is the ‘ability to deal with unpleasantness’, ‘media management’, ‘politics’, ‘power struggles”. ‘competition’… such like. The ability ‘to fight’ for what you want to achieve.
Without these abilities you cannot achieve fame and riches!
Generally men do ‘the fight’ more willingly. Women do the ‘fight’ if they have to, generally speaking.
‘Fighting’ women are found in the ‘working classes’ in urban India. Useless, drunken, beating husbands force those women to both provide and care for their families and these ladies turn to doing ‘domestic help’ in as many homes as they have the time and energy for. (A real life heroine – Vasantha « Stories and Stuff!)
‘Fighting’ women are found among fisher-persons along the coast – they don’t actually go fishing yet – but they do hell of a lot of hard work once the catch comes home. They do it as a part f the family.
‘Fighting’ women are found among the farmers, road builders, home builders and many other careers (as a part of the family) – but they put up with lower pays and some level of harassment and exploitation.
It is not that women can’t fight, it is that it is hard to be a “care-giver” to the family and a “fighter” in the same mind-set. So they do end up being side-lined in their careers.
Women whose husbands (or parents) take on the role of care-giving to the family – can and do take on the tougher ‘fighter’ personalities in their career. The Indian Corporate and Political Sphere has seen many such tough and successful ladies.
For visible success in society, ie for fame, you need this ‘fighting abilty’.
But is fame the only part pf greatness?
What is greatness?
Greatness is ‘more’ than what the people in your time and circle achieve.
I think M.S. Subbalakshmi achieved greatness. I think Thyagaraja and Annamayya achieved greatness. I think J.R.D. Tata achieved greatness. I think Gandhi and Nehru achieved greatness and so on. But you see all of these also achieved fame.
Thyagaraja did not work for or care for fame. He cared for Rama and sang for Rama and left a trail of everlasting fame that he was quite unmindful of. His achievement is that huge body of keertanas full of devotion and vedanta. He had no money and lived an ultra simple life. He had no ‘stuff’. I don’t think people flocked to him for help and advice. His keertanas became famous because people learned and spread them for centuries after his time. Others have made CDs, given concerts and earned riches and fame, singing his songs!
People always let me know that they have achieved great wealth, are better home-makers, are more knowledgeable etc than I am. They are forever indulging in a game of one-upmanship – ‘see how great I am! I am better than you!’ But I don’t admire them actually. I don’t want to be like them. I always concede victory to them and say ‘wow!’ As you can guess – I am not very popular!
If I can’t ‘fight’ for fame and recognition and financial success – I cannot realise my potential in that sense of the word.
So I write everyday – but for a blog.
I sing often – for Rama. (Guaranteed, uncritical audience – he doesn’t care how many mistakes I make and never tells me that Hanuman and Narada are better than I am).
If I can write superbly, If I can sing superbly, If I can attain perfection for which only I am a witness and audience then I have still ‘realised my potential’.
If my potential is talent and work, but if I have no potential ‘to fight the good fight’ then I can achieve only ‘private perfection’.
Am I disappointed? Do I need the admiration/admission of others to validate me? Do I need fame?
Genuine admiration is gratifying! And I do get a bit of it – on and off. From truly awesome people who I admire!
And people do help to popularise my work by telling their friends and readers.
In my head, Thyagaraja is greater than A.R. Rehman (though he is great too).
In my head s’ankarAcArya is greater than someone with a Ph.D.
So perhaps what I strive is for my perfection. And when I see people around my age who have already attained perfection in their chosen fields – I feel wistful. Whether it is Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean or Tom Cruise in mission impossible or Russel Crowe in Beautiful Mind. The perfection of their work is visible in the work they present to the world.
yOgah karmasu kaus’alam! yOga is skill(perfection) in work! (Bhagavad Gita)