Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mediocrity: meanness and indifference

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius."
       ~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"But because thou art Lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth."
      ~Revelation 3:16

After reading Jenna's post in this round of our discussion, I am certain we are working from different understandings with regard to mediocrity.  I checked to be certain that my definition is a legitimate one, not merely my own reactions and responses to Kierkegaard and Christ in their united disgust with the mediocre, and my little dictionary confirmed me when it provided synonyms such as "indifferent," "mean," and "non-person." I"m comforted. Especially as this post is written quickly, sandwhiched between a late-morning nap and strawberry canning with moja Matka, who is up anticipating the birth of her first grandchild.

Mediocrity in my understanding is the failiure of the person to be a person, to be an active participant in his own life. It is the pursuit of the "good enough" and not the Good - attempting Purgatory, not Heaven, and in doing so, failing to reach either. Mediocrity fails to create Art because it is indifferent to Beauty, and uninterested in effort - it lacks not only talent but desire. Rilke describes the mediocre life, when he writes that being alive and being awake are acts not states, and it is necessary to do them,  not simply fall into them. The state of not being dead, but not acting as a person alive is the state of the mediocre. He refuses to chose, to become either hot or cold, and in the end is "spit out," having been "neither one of the living nor one of the dead." (Rilke). Because of this, because mediocrity is alway comfortable in it's indifference, it is like Acedia, the noonday demon that Kathleen Norris describes so well. It sucks the life and the passion from man and sinks him into despair and inhumanity, and "mediocrity is always guilty" (Kierkegaard) of forming a sort of self-deception in the person, keeping him from seeing anything higher than himself.

Mediocrity is a temptation at various times, for the artist, and for the person. In life, mediocrity tempts us to fulfill the law without love, to rest in the feeling that we are better than some, and worse than others - just an ordinary, everyday person, with no need to pursue perfection. In art, it produces similar results: I'm good enough, I paint nice flowers, people like them, why work for more? It is an attitude, not a measure of skill.

If I have time this week, I may come back to this. Read and think and write again - because I am spending so much time right now looking at my clock and knowing I need to rush off again.


  1. Masha, I think we might just be working from different dictionaries! :P

    I've been trying to think how to respond to this, but my day is full. I have a bunch of girls coming over tonight to help assemble a friend's wedding programs. :) We'll see what I can come up with on Monday.

    Praying for a safe delivery for you and the baby!

  2. Yeah, that's what I decided, which is why I ended up not responding to your post, because it was such a different definition. :) It was easier to just go from my own..

    Have fun preparing for the wedding..we're hoping the baby will come soon - 2 days late and counting right now. :)

  3. buy zolpidem buy ambien online usa - ambien side effects anxiety