May 312017

Reality frustrates the hell out of my sometimes, because it’s so damned unfair.

Take, for example, Deftones. A legit fantastic band. Compare to Chevelle, who are totally acceptable in a pinch, and who–significant for this post–sound like they were influenced by Deftones.

I am not a music geek, so I don’t have the vocabulary or understanding to describe why Deftones is outstanding and Chevelle is mediocre, even though they have a very similar style. All I have is deep emotional draw that gives me the shivers when I hear Deftones, and a lack of that draw that makes me think “Man, these guys must’ve really liked Deftones and tried to make similar music” when I hear Chevelle.

I find that heartbreaking, in large part because my intuition says that Chevelle also doesn’t know what that key spark of difference is either… and that no one really does. I could love Deftones with all my heart, and learn how to play, and practice, and write music. And when someone heard it they’d say there’s something missing.

In a just world that thing would be drive/dedication. It would something like “the members of Deftones spent years upon years learning their craft, and experimenting. And they would spend months slavishly working on each song until it was perfect.” While a lesser band wouldn’t have as much dedication or passion, and would put songs out quickly without too much introspection or work.

And maybe that’s part of the truth. I’m sure it’s a factor. But I’ve been in my local writing community for a while, and it seems that isn’t quite all of it. Some people just seem to Get It. They have something that comes through, and it’s magical. Others, who work just as much, never quite do. They produce passable work, but nothing that crackles with genius. And from an outside point of view, there doesn’t seem to be anything that separates them except some elusive, unquantifiable thing that most people call Talent. Some people have a lot of it, others don’t, and no one knows why.

It’s damned unfair that someone would be good at a thing they love just because. They were lucky and were born with it, or had it instilled in childhood, or whatever. And someone else who loves that thing just as much simply isn’t good at it. For no damn reason.

I know this is “wailing that not everyone is equally tall” territory, but it hurts me that people can be shut out of a passion, a driving force in their life, just because Bad Luck. What kind of a fucked up world is that?

There’s no good compensation. You can’t transfer talent from one person to another until things are equal. You could tax the more gifted and give the money to the lesser-so, but that only gives them money. It doesn’t address the problem of exclusion from what gives their life meaning. Nor can we just give admiration to everyone equally, because that devalues the art we love, and makes love a lie. All anyone can do is say “I’m sorry, that sucks,” and feel sympathy. And continue listening to the good stuff.

The distribution of talent is inequitable, and there is nothing that any person can do to fix that. The best we can hope is that maybe as a social project we can improve everyone’s chances via stimulating childhood environments, loving parents, plenty of resources, and genetic screening/modification. To make people, as a whole, better. That’s a frustratingly un-actionable hope though. It doesn’t let me, or anyone individually, address the “not all people who love producing music are equally talented at doing so, and it’s not their fault, and that’s unfair” problem. :(

  7 Responses to “The Inequitable Distribution of Talent”

  1. I don’t see why it is really a problem or how you could solve it without making everyone literally the same. We over emphasize the worth people based upon whether they are good at sport or good looking or good musicians. I’d prefer that people decouple human worth from production value.

    • I don’t think this is necessarily about linking human worth to production value. One of the greatest parts of being an artist is seeing other people enjoy your work. It’s absolutely thrilling to see someone else really enjoying something you’ve created.

      If you love working in a particular medium, whether it’s music, painting, video games, cooking, whatever, but despite your best work you aren’t able to produce anything that people really love, then that hurts. It’s fully possible that this is due to a deeply ingrained sense of self worth based on your production value, but I see it as being more akin to the human need for love.

      I don’t think that changing society could remove that need for your work to be appreciated any more than it could change the need we all have for love and validation.

      • I would say that if you only like your work if you get enough recognition then you are linking your production value to your value.

        Decoupling production value from value seems about as realistic as making all humans literally equal.

    • I think so too, about everyone being the same if you want there to not be any Talent / lack of Talent.

      I guess I compared it with computer games in my head, basically with an MMORPG. Everyone gets the same base values and then they can customize their character as much as they want, so in the end there’s usually not two characters that are the same (in a population of a few thousand that is) but everyone could make a character the same as someone elses. Sure, real life would have way more options for customization so to speak, so everyone would still be different in terms of character traits, even given billions of other humans.

      I’d just be a bit worried that someone famous and well liked (hmm, let’s say Elon Musk) would write a walkthrough on how to become him and a few years later there’s dozens of basically clones of him walking around. Wait, is that a bad thing? I’m not entirely sure… :)

    • I’m not sure that it’s a “problem,” per se. It’s just saddening. And I agree there’s no way to “fix” it in the present day.

  2. I would take the opposite side: it’s completely unfair that I get to consume the best music, best writing, best art, etc even though I’m unable to produce these things equally well myself (and so cannot fully reciprocate with their creators). And it’s wonderful that society is organized in such a way that I get to consume these things despite not deserving them.

    • Oh!!! That is a far more beautiful and optimistic way of looking at things. :) I will try to remember this.

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