Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Burden of Talent

I watched a film about The Doors last night. I'm not a huge Doors fan or anything, but I was interested because the film was by Tom DeCillio whose films I like a lot. What struck me, was how many extremely talented people have died young. Jim Morrison is just another name to add to a long list Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, James Dean, Jeff Buckley, Sylvia Plath.... The list is too long to write.

My question is why?

What is it about being talented that leads to an early grave? Is being talented a burden that becomes to heavy to bear? Or is it that once your talent has been recognized, expectations follow?

I think it probably comes down to both. Being talented means being good, or even great at something. Sometimes, I imagine, the thing you're good at may not be the thing you're passionate about. Then the burden of your talent could become a millstone around your neck. In other cases, maybe it is the thing you love. Yet once you've put your genius out there for the world to see, the world wants more and more of the same thing. Perhaps you're ready to branch out, do something new, explore new and fascinating territory. Yet the people who gave you success are demanding something else.

There is possibly something different about the minds of people who have talent. Perhaps their brains work on a different plain, move faster than the brains of us regular folks. That would explain the way so many talented people seem drawn to drugs and other mind-altering substances. Maybe they're just trying to get their minds to work the same way the rest of us do. Perhaps they're trying to comprehend the way we see the world.

Sometimes talent can be constricting. My best friend is a very talented singer/songwriter. She loves her work, loves performing and writing music, but over the years I've seen her struggle with it too. Especially when other people (her band, manager, crew etc) are relying on her. In that case, her talent is holding a bigger thing together, and it takes only a seed of doubt to have the house of cards come tumbling down.

I've always longed to be talented, but the more I look at the madness and destruction talent has wrecked upon those who have it, the luckier I feel to be average.

What is your experience of talent? Is it something to fear, or something to covet?

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