On The Vanity of Artists
March 31, 2019
“On the vanity of artists - I believe that artists do not know what they can do best because they are too vain and have their minds set on something prouder than these small plants seem to be that are new, strange and beautiful and really capable of growing on their soil. Here is a musician who more than any other musician, is master at finding the tones from the realm of suffering, dejected, tormented souls and at giving speech even to the mute animals. Nobody equals him at the colours of late autumn, at the indescribably moving happiness of a last, very last, very briefest enjoyment.. yes, he is the master at the very small. But he doesn’t want to be! His character likes great walls and bold frescoes much better. It escapes him that his spirit has a different taste and disposition and likes best of all to sit quietly in the corners of collapsed houses - there, hidden, hidden from himself, he paints his real masterpieces.. only there does he become wholly good, great, and perfect;perhaps only there. - But he doesn’t know it! He is too vain to know it.“
- GS, 87
Why has man, who spends a life thinking, feeling, and living as if there was some great task or adventure asked of him, considered this: his vanity is misplaced. That “they”, the empty faces he desires to love, cherish and sing hymns of his glory, won’t last the fierce winds of time longer than he? Why does he preoccupy himself with the wonders of what “they” say? What “they” think. What “they” believe. Constructing in “their” preferences the image who he himself should be.
Viciously, and with great force, the turnstile of time will rewind - and he will come to this moment again - so then, what need is there to build a greatness which outlasts himself?
What utility could man produce from his vanity, that will be individual in origin, untainted from alignment of what “they” say? A masterpiece of his own.
Should the ends of his vanity even be pursued? After all, what if his spirit is that of the little man in the workshop. Whereas, his character is the mask he chooses to wear, and it’s ambitions speak more of what “they” want, what “they” crave, what “they” deem glorious. A costume on stage, of extreme temperament, created by an audience yearning,
“ to hear people in the most difficult situations speak well and at length… [with] words, reasons and eloquent gestures, and altogether a radiant spirit where life approaches the abyss and a real human would usually lose his head and certainly his fine language”
- GS, 80
For it is “they” who desire a spectacle, a man in the arena - which no doubt, man contests to play. But might he be better off with this:
To check his hubris before his shield on his decision to enter the crucible.