Sadly, us humans do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world in which we cannot completely eliminate pain, suffering, and every negativity that you could think of. However, just because this is the case does not mean that all hope is lost, and it does not mean that nothing good happens. It rather is a sad existence in which sometimes, bad things do happen, and they always will happen, but yet there are moments of good that are the exact polar opposite of that bad, so it’s sadly a combination of both instead of being all good. Because of this, negative things happen and then we try to do things to fix them. Of course, we can never completely eliminate them, but rather our existence is a conflicted combination of both afflicting negative things upon others while also trying to eliminate negative things for ourselves and others, and thus, we are doomed to this pendulum existence. The good things do make it worthwhile, however, while sometimes, the bad drives people to commit suicide. There simply is no resting point as these two circumstances constantly wish-wash each other throughout our daily lives.
So, at least for this piece, I am going to try to do something “good”, accepting that at some point in my life, I am going to do something “bad”, and thus am doomed to continue this imperfect cycle while hoping that good things will happen to me throughout this life. I believe that most people have this same attitude.
That being said, I want to look at something specifically that I think is negative, and I want to explain all of the ins and outs of this particular phenomenon, as I am one to do.
This particular piece is an extremely deep piece that I personally have dealt with, as have many others whom have both been a victim of this as well as a perpetrator of this. And thus we have the wishy-washy conflict, leading to imperfection, that can only let us hope to do things and take actions that we think will get us there, which is the point of this piece.
The title of this piece is called “Condemning Talent”. Talent is defined as being objectively more effective at achieving ends than a significant number of other people. In other words, talent is being able to achieve what humans want to achieve more so than other humans. Humans have to have the ability to distinguish variances between things, such as length (when measuring to build a house), or weight, or other things. We also have desires to reach ends: for instance, wanting to reach the fruit from a tree. In our existence, there are some people that can accomplish things in different ways than other people, and there are some people that can’t accomplish some things that some people can, sometimes because of actions creating historical circumstances that are impossible to completely repeat and sometimes because of whatever it is that gives people talent and whatever it is that doesn’t give other people that same talent, at least in that same capacity (the same could be said for any advantageous and disadvantageous circumstance, honestly, such as being born able to see or being born blind. But we’ll focus more on “talent” as it is more widely recognized for the sake of this piece, but the logic applies to all of the other examples that I stated).
Talent is typically recognized by other people as an achievement that is reached in more effective ways than is done by other people. Talent also has a subjective component to it as well, I suppose, as value judgments quickly come into play when it comes to talent. An individual may be a “talented” piano player, but if I don’t enjoy his music, I am not going to consider him “talented”, and therefore any “talented” moniker that he receives is useless to me. However, at playing the piano, if he is more effective at obtaining desired ends than other people, he is “talented.”
“Talent” exists on a spectrum, much like fame. Definitionally, fame is simply being known, and typically it means being known by a large number of people, although the number is inexact. We generally have an idea of the number of people that it takes to be called “famous”, but fame is simply being recognized, and thus “fame” is a hard term to define. How many people does it take to become “famous”? A high school quarterback who wins a championship for a town that enjoys watching football is “famous” in his town, but he is not famous globally, and thus is generally not defined as being “famous.” Likewise, someone that is known by an undefined number of people in the majority of countries around the world is typically defined as “famous” while there are still yet many people that have never heard of the name of said person, nor have never been aware of their existence whatsoever. So fame is a hard term to exactly define, although it is generally known what is meant by “fame.” So “talent” is being able to effectively achieve ends, and it inherently implies differences among people in being able to all achieve the ends that they are attempting to achieve. There is also something called “luck”, in which it is believed that the effort of the individual did not have anything to do with the ends received except by circumstances outside of his control, and the relationship between human effort (and thus “achievement”) and luck is a very interesting one that I will have to discuss at some point.
Individual nature, especially when applied to all of humanity, is not something that is easily described. Typically, any example given can almost always prove an exemption, especially as medicine advances and we become more aware of unusual conditions that we didn’t think were possible with our generalizations of mankind. Individual nature is no different. We can say that all human beings alive live, but then we must describe what it means to “live.” Typically, this means that your heart is beating and you are breathing, and it is a characteristic that all living human beings must have a beating heart and must breathe, although maybe someday, I’ll be proven wrong about that.
It is also true that all humans have desires. Desires are intrinsic, and their existence is related to human existence as well, meaning ultimately, I believe, that if you want to understand why we have desires, you must understand why we exist in the first place. We simply do not exist without desires, and they are so intimiately related that I do not believe that we would exist without them, because we could not be human. Desires are another thing, besides breathing and a beating heart, that make us all human. It is simply human nature (meaning an immutable reality of our existence) that we experience desires.
Talent is when someone achieves something more effectively than enough other people that we consider them different from the others in their ability to perform said action. Desires are interesting, because to measure their variety is almost impossible. Some talented people are not getting their desires met, while some of the biggest idiots in the world are completely content. It’s fascinating how this occurs, and this does not mean that we ignore the existence of talent. But rather that we understand that talent only has importance to us as it relates to our desires, because all of our actions (including thinking (see “The Apparent Disconnect Between Thinking and Acting”)) are driven by our desires. Our desires control us in every way, shape or form, and there is no way to escape this. This is a part of human nature. One might try to raise an objection, such as “Cody, I want to have sex with a lot of girls, but I don’t do it.” Then either your desire to not talk to these girls specifically trumps your desire to have sex with them, or there is a conflict between your desires and her desires that you have not reconciled which allows you to have sex with her. None of this changes the fact that all of our actions are driven by our desires, and what controls our desires is a very interesting thing.
I do not think that we have complete control over what we want to desire or not. I think there is another force (I would have to believe that it is God) that controls what it is that we desire, and controls what pleasure we receive from specific things, as well as even the discomfort that we feel at still yet other things. For instance, one does not get to choose what one’s favorite food is. One typically likes some foods instead of others, and thus one will eat the foods that he likes (or eats the foods that give him benefits that he desires) and avoid those that he doesn’t like. If you wanted to eat enough of a food so that it became your favorite instead of something else, I suppose that you could, but this would not change the fact that it was your desires which led you to perform that specific action. I do not believe that we have complete control over our desires, but rather that our desires have complete control over us. I am saddened by the fact that this statement has been used by the religious and murderers or rapists to justify their evils, but that is not what I mean by this statement. I think that God controls our desires, and then we perform actions that coincide with those desires because it is our nature, our existence, that warrants this. I do not think that we can do anything that does not coincide with our desires because that is how we are made. That doesn’t mean that we don’t do things that we don’t like, like working, but there has to be something that we desire more so than avoiding what we don’t want in order for us to perform an action that we do not want to perform. In other words, we still always do what we desire, even when we are doing something that we don’t desire.
Don’t pervert my words here: that does not mean that when we don’t like doing something that we still want to do it. But rather, we want something from doing the specific action, even though we don’t want to perform that specific action. For example, I don’t know of anyone that wants to work. Very few people go to work because they enjoy the act of working. However, they want to get paid so that they can buy things, and thus they work. There is no way to avoid attempting to satisfy your desires. This is how we are by whatever makes us (and I think that is God).
Desires branch off in many different directions, but one impossible-to-avoid distinction between desires are those that violate natural rights and those that do not. There is no better way, I believe, to categorize what I am talking about besides the terms that I used. Because inevitably, someone’s desires (and thus their actions) are going to hurt the feelings of someone else, but hurting someone’s feelings is different than stealing their car or raping them or killing them. Either way, it is a negative experience for the affected party, but this negativity exists on a spectrum, much like fame and talent do.
But sadly, there is a dark, dark side to humanity in that emotion known as envy.
I feel qualified to talk about this disaster because I myself suffered from it for many years. It initially began as envy of the rich, which was insatiable and ultimately led me to think that the entire world was build upon ripping people off, and that was my breaking point. But thankfully, immediately after my breaking point, I became a Christian and then, also thankfully, I began to ask questions about what economics actually was (a question that, sadly, most are never going to answer) and I’ve been happy ever since, studying and learning about economics. But before this time, envy was pretty much a constant in my life. “Rich people don’t deserve their money”, “They should be taxed more”, “They create poverty”, and all of these things I believed. I believed them through all of my life until I had my breaking point, and the only thing that I can say that changed my mind was a divine miracle, and I’m incredibly thankful that it did, because it made me understand how the world actually worked, and it’s incredibly interesting.
Of course, there’s always the side of me that realizes some people will be blessed and others damned in everyday life, but ultimately, this is out of my control and I can only enjoy what God has given me and do nothing else.
Another form of envy that I suffered from was attractiveness envy. I was as envious as anyone could ever be. I wanted to be the hottest man alive, but I didn’t want to work out or eat healthy, so I just stayed stuck in between these two, and I honestly didn’t think I would ever get out. It was literally Hell on Earth. It was nearly crippling in many contexts, but slowly and surely, it is going away, although I’m sure it still exists within me.
But there’s a real fundamental point to make here, and it is not a pill that is easily swallowed. The ultimate point here is that of talent. Not only of talent as far as skills go, but simply advantages in general. There is simply no equality among human beings as far as advantages go. There is simply no way to make everyone the most attractive person in the world, and there are people that wouldn’t find that person attractive anyway. Not everyone can be the fastest, and not everyone wants to be the fastest. For those that do want to be and are stuck, they either have to try until they get there or accept that they aren’t, and that is no easy thing to do. It’s really not, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, because I know this. The real sad part though is that I was trapped, as are many of these people that are experiencing the same envy that I have faced. It’s the worst possible thing to happen to me which on one hand, I guess I’m fortunate for but on the other hand, it still was not a very pleasant time in my life. It’s literally the fight you cannot win.
So the point is that individuals are always better at their peers at specific advantageous things. Human nature is this way, and I don’t think there is any way to prevent it. The only way, I suppose, would be to take genes that are “adventageous” and only allow those people to breed while killing everyone else off, but I hardly think that killing people and not allowing people to do what they want to do is the solution to create more talented people in the world. I suppose that the only thing we can do is accept it when people are better at us at things while trying to improve upon those things which we wish to improve upon, and there is nothing else we can do about it. It’s not an easy thing to accept, and I know this from the most personal of levels. But I have (at least most of the time) been one that desires truths, and I am thankful for this. Sometimes, I feel like one of the rare few that does. I have certainly noticed many intellectual differences between myself and others, and I often felt bad for other people because I wanted everyone to be as smart as I was. Of course, not everyone cared, but nonetheless I still had this feeling. It was a feeling deeply related to religion, which I have written about before, but the basic idea was that humanity and God were separate somehow in that things that were “worldly” were not “Godly”, and to me that included things that humans enjoyed and that they related to. For instance, I enjoyed being smart and related to it, but because I heard a lot about how I should avoid the “world” for “Heaven”, I condemned my own intelligence. And, incredibly sadly, this sentiment was echoed by many a moralist throughout my day who felt compelled that the point of life was to repeat phrases that sounded good that would somehow earn you the favor of God. This killed my self-esteem and sense of identity, and it left me miserable. Purposely trying to make myself unintelligent simply made me miserable, and thankfully, it never worked, although my mind has remained in a funk for a long time. I stopped thinking about things as deeply as I could, and instead just “flash” brained things, but I was absolutely miserable. And although I still wonder why some people are stupid and others are smart, and I wish that everyone was smart, I have to accept the fact that I am smarter than some people and do whatever makes me happy, because I can’t just shove a book into the brain of someone like is the case in the opening scene of “Rocko’s Modern Life”, and I suppose that I could make myself stupider, but I don’t want to, and I don’t think that it is a good “moral” argument that I should make myself dumber so that other people don’t feel so bad about themselves. First of all, not everyone cares, but even if they do, I just simply don’t want to do it and I don’t think anyone can argue to me why I should. The ultimate result, as is always the case, is that I will become miserable and not be intelligent and the fool will feel better about themselves, but they won’t be foolish. That isn’t a good enough solution to me, and it isn’t good enough for anyone that has been blessed with something advantageous, nor should it be.
The ultimate point here, besides that of rights, is understanding the reality of humanity, and part of that is understanding diversity and inequality among human beings. There simply is no complete equality among human beings. Any intelligent person understands this as you can rattle off case after case after case where this is not the case, so I won’t go through all of the possibilities here, although I’m sad that people still aren’t going to understand it, but that’s also part of what I’m discussing so I have to decide what to do with that information that some people are just never going to understand it.
Aside from the guilt that I have always felt throughout my life about this, I honestly think that there is nothing that I can do. I can do what I’m doing now, write and think, and they can decide to read what I write and maybe it influences them positively and they understand what I’m saying without any misrepresentations, but I can’t force any such thing to happen, so if it doesn’t happen, I’ll just have to accept it, even though it pains me.
There is simply no benefit to being a slave to someone else just because they feel inferior to you, and if the point of Christianity is happiness, as I believe is the case, there is no room for self-condemnation for any reason, particularly when it involves talent and inequality. There is simply no justification for feeling guilty for human nature, and there is no justification for feeling guilty for something which has no solution but to destroy one and do nothing for the other. That is not the solution to envy, nor what to do with talent and God’s gifts.
There is simply another solution that involves individualism and rights, but this does not include destroying those that you feel inferior to. This can not be the solution, and in fact, it isn’t.
I hope and pray that we can realize this and just stop it, but I know the pains all too well, so I empathize with these envious individuals while hoping that they go through a similar process as I did to at least quell the envy a little bit.