The romantic fools, first, himself, and then the world.
This is a spoken word piece, the rough recording of which you can listen to here. Below is a brief introduction to a theme of the piece, and below that the text of the work itself.
I don’t like making art into a competition; in alienating the artist from the spoils of his labor. Whether it’s a ribbon given by a group of experts or a trophy awarded by a random group of people from an audience, it removes the feeling and definition of success from the artist, to whom it properly belongs. Both elitism and democracy are antithetical to art for that reason, which is why the artist is always in conflict with consensus.
This is my current problem with slam poetry: it encourages cliche because it encourages pandering and consensus – and humans do enough of those three things without providing incentives for it (that might also be why so much of it sounds the same).
You would never criticize a cheerleader for getting the audience to stand up and cheer and clap and be loud. That’s a cheerleader’s job: to lead cheer. If it’s the poet’s job to garner applause, then it would appear I’ve misunderstood the purpose of poetry.
Giving up your own definition of success should be a voluntary choice the artist makes (such as in favor of letting one’s muse determine success, or similarly a loved one, and so on), but I fear for many that choice is a hard one when societal pressure places too much emphasis on external validation.
A Thousand Fools
Where a thousand fools failed — running against the wall, colliding, falling back – I will stumble through just as expected. The wall, having been weakened by my idiotic predecessors, will give way to my thick skull. Bricks will tumble into the greener new world and society will gaze at the crash and agree together that I must be helped to my feet. I will stare with boyish curiosity at the rubble and remark, “What a mess I’ve made.”
My fellow idiots will turn with wonder, “How did you do that!?” “I don’t know,” I reply. But society will say, “A mess!? You fool! You are a genius!” They will crown me with wreathes and adorn me with medals and build statues of me. They will tell me how I did it and how it was meant to be me, while the other fools present justified scorn. But I agree, my friends! It should have been you!
It will not be of my own efforts that I succeeded where you failed. It will be an historical accident. A drawing of straws in scope and scale too large for any one hand. A statistical anomaly. I am outside the 6th sigma! I am outside the 12th! How many millions had to crash for me to have the odds? How many loose screws were thrown into the dustbin – malfunctioning, worthless, unnecessary! – before I could be deemed a perfect fit!? It is arbitrary! It is arbitrary! It is malfunctioning! It is worthless! It is unnecessary! Therefore do not let it tell you what is and is not worthy!
On a long enough time line, if enough idiots bang their head against a wall, one of them will break through where the others only made themselves look foolish. But, I say to you, my fellow Don Quixotes, my head is not at all harder than yours, my pace not any quicker, my mass not more imposing, my delusions just as entrenched, and my hopelessness just as real! In fact! I say to you that you are likely better qualified for this than I. That a thousand of you are likely better qualified than I!
And so I also say to you, let us fools not judge ourselves by our success in breaking the wall. Let us revel in our foolishness for its inherent worth! Let us celebrate! For it is not the achievement that glorifies us, but the collision! And it is not the validation of society that gives our art its value, but it is our own energy and passion! Our own audacity in the arms of impossibility! That is what makes a novel beautiful! Not a medal! That is what makes the spoken word resound! Not applause! Applause can only drown the word! Not approval! The word means nothing in a sea of nods! My beautiful runners, my dreamers of dreams, we who swim against the tide, we whose waves crash harder than acceptance, whose vocal chords scream louder than consensus! There are so many other walls to crash! Our heat is light and comes from motion! So run! Now! Run! Run! Move to set this world on fire!