Talent, Skill and Wisdom

I've been reading a book by Salman Rushdie called "The Moor's Last Sigh". It's great. I've been a fan of Rushdie's for a while, and my appreciation for him has grown since my involvement with India and the Dalit movement.

Rushdie is a real genius. He plays with language like a magician with a deck of cards. He makes it look easy, and he seemingly flippantly does impossible things. It's a ride, and very fun to get into.

Last night I read a tiny paragraph that was so simple and profound, carefree and meticulous at the same time. Genius. I had to stop and read it a few times, just laughing out loud at just how good he is at this.

It's inspiring to see somebody so good do something great. It makes me think of the last few Super Bowl halftimes. (I can't really tell you about anything that happened in the actual game, per se.)

A few years ago the Rolling Stones played. They're one of the originals, the founding fathers of rock and roll. They're good, but they're more "important" for the role they played. They have natural talent, but their set was boring and uninspired. It wasn't fun to watch, and I doubt it made any new fans. After 45 years of being a band, you'd think they would learn what people might like to watch. If you have a 16 minute set, don't jam out on two of your average songs the whole time. Think about what you can do best, and give it to us.

This past year Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played. They were amazing. They had obviously given it a lot of thought. They cut all the intros to half their usual length. They played four songs, but only the second verse of one of them. They got to the choruses of their biggest hits and they hung out there for just long enough. They knew what folks wanted and they gave it to them. They had rehearsed, that was obvious, and they were not just talented but skilled at what they do. And it set them apart. Everybody I talked to loved their set. Just try getting tickets to a Tom Petty show this year. Just try. You can't. They inspired us and now everybody wants more.

Every one of us is talented at something. And we're all probably somewhat skilled at something. But the magic happens when you learn to use your talent with skill, and then you skillfully use your talent with wisdom.

It's inspiring, and just plain fun, to see somebody do this, and they always make it look easy. But it's not.