“He was like a man who has got used to drinking the finest wine, and now finds that everyday wine tastes like vinegar.” -Pillars of the Earth
Would Spring be as refreshing without the drawn-out harshness of the bitter cold, limiting days of winter? Would the pallet of color that we experience anew each May be as intoxicating if we had not just departed from the steady hues of grey and white? If we had nothing for comparison, would the beauty of the earth be as riveting as we find it in these first few months of warmth?
I’ve read the quote that “comparison is the thief of joy”, and that notion has been rattling around inside my head for months. I’ve been trying to make it work; trying to find the truth that may lie within that short string of words. In my ruminating, however, I have come to my own working conclusion about such things. Comparison can lead to greater joy, appreciation, and experience. Comparison can help us to recognize what we value and what we hold dear. Comparison can enable us to appreciate differences. Comparison can enlighten. Without attaching the act of comparison to the idea of grading the juxtaposed ideas, comparison can be our friend as we journey on in life, and need to reposition ourselves (from the minutia of days to the grandest of happenings).
While I was doing my undergraduate work, I came to detest deconstructive criticism. Why? Because the goal of such work is to prove that the text is not unified, to poke holes in the text, and to thus render it lacking in any meaning that was intended by the author, which resonates as sarcasm too much for me to be an appreciator. As a writer, this type of literary criticism has served as a haunting force that enables fear, angst, and lack of self-confidence, which then can issue the artist a disability card. My creative/spiritual soul is best served when I am void of the deconstructive, critical spirit. And, quite honestly, I think we are all best served by the absence of such a voice.
An example? We’ll use the act of writing as our example, but you can replace “writing” with any other verb (practicing your faith, parenting your children, loving your partner, baking cookies for a friend, et al.). So we set out to write (observe, parent, love, bake). We sit down. There is an abundance of potential energy to do this with our entire being. The ideas are alive, bouncing, and ready to flow from the invisible to page. And we begin, fast and furious, or slow and calculated. The action of forming ideas with words flows from our minds as if we were designed to do this. There is joy. Exuberance. Excitement. The page fills. The heart soars with contentment. Pause. Reflection. Re-reading of the work. (Enter: deconstruction). Criticism of all elements: motive, ability, execution. Mind whirls. Why did I think I could do this? I see the holes. Their minds won’t be able to follow. The example was poor. Vocabulary too narrow. I’m kidding myself to think I can do this. Poking holes, one by one, our inner voice tears apart the text, phrase by phrase, until there is no good reason to refrain from balling the paper up and tossing it into the trash. And then, the worst of all things: there is great fear to try again. Stillness. Lack of Motion.
Who is best served by this kind of thinking? No one. And though I have no cure for debunking such a critical mindset, I do know something that works best: to change frequencies. To veer away from that which debilitates. And to learn how to gravitate toward a calmer, more caring, extra loving inner voice that affirms the given gift of expression, and propels us to move forward no matter the external response. Most of us have been to an art gallery, seen the work created, and thought internally, “Well, I could have done that!”. And to quote my friend Caleb: “But the thing is–you didn’t.” So, essentially, keep at it.
Yeah, go on. Do that thing you feel you were meant to do. Let loose. Give yourself the freedom to forget the deconstructive critics and to soldier on as if it’s your last day to do so. Compared to that fearful way of being/living/creating…the emboldened, enlivened, excited, confident self is surely the more suitable choice. Good thing we have comparison to help us out in this matter. Because if we didn’t….