The class clown who becomes a stand up comic, the guy who drew funny pictures of his teachers on his book covers becomes a cartoonist, the kid who always brought home stray dogs becomes a veterinarian, the child who kept a diary and loved writing letters becomes a journalist or in the case of my brother, a boy who loved western outlaws and pirates became a biker and bodyguard for rock and roll bands. Did these children have a chance of not being what they eventually became? Or was it their passion and single minded devotion to their very special interest finding its ultimate potential?
Certainly, if a kid has a naturally pleasing singing voice and sings around the house, then perhaps at church and then school choirs and eventually joins a band and finally becomes a professional entertainer no one seems surprised. But what of the people who dream of stardom, or even just careers, but are too afraid or self-conscious, or lazy to do anything about it? And what if you actually are something but have yet to discover just what that is?
Many parents complain of their children's apparent lack of long term interest in hobbies and past times. The kid wants to learn to play guitar but then stops after six weeks. He takes tennis lessons but gives up after six months. Now he wants to learn to ski but lessons and equipment all cost money and if he's not going to stick with it, what is the point? The point is that he or she is sampling at the buffet of life all the dishes that seem appealing. Only after having tasted a sample can one make up his or her mind and learn what he or she likes or doesn't like.
In the movie Adaptation, Meryl Streep's character meets a man who has such an all consuming passion for orchids (of all things) that she, hoping some of his passion for flowers will rub off onto her passionless life, instigates an affair even though she is married. It is his passion and enthusiasm she finds attractive, not his toothless grin, and she feels betrayed when she discovers that his expert knowledge of, and passion for, orchids is only two years old. Before orchids he held the same deep involvement with something completely unrelated and he confesses to her that eventually his orchid obsession will end and he'll find something else over with to obsess. I've known people like that. Complete experts in some of the strangest things, for a while. And once their fixation on that particular subject is over they move on to something else and become an absolute expert in that. Is this some sort of misdirected genius or mental disorder?
It is sometimes quite shocking at the quality of talent you can find at an arts and crafts fair or an art show in the park or playing onstage at the local pub. Is talent God given, inherited, destined or is it simply developed, created from the desire and the need to create? Or do we view talent completely backward? There are videos on the internet where elephants in India paint using a brush in their trunk to create paintings of elephants that are better than most people could do. At first this is shocking, almost frightening. Then it is explained that the pachyderms are simply taught to move the brush in a particular direction across the canvas then move it in another direction in a sequence that eventually results in what looks to us like a painting of an elephant. A machine can do the same thing. Perhaps what we view as talent is our perception as much, or even more, than someone else's ability.
It is for this reason that when it comes to art intent is 90%. It is the intent to paint a picture of an elephant that the elephant artist does not have and it is the intent of the five year old pianist to play a pretty tune for his mom that makes one an artist and another a beast of burden.