23 April 2009

Age and Identity - part one

In today's world, there are numerous individuals and organisations competing for attention through the media, and in interpersonal encounters. Many 'celebrities' are molded by coaches, managers and public relations consultants. (The main role of a 'celebrity' is to be a marketing tool.)


Many young people are impatient for success, for recognition, for regular boosts to their egos and bank balances, without realising that emotional depth, an accurate understanding of the self and others, and trust in one's own cautious judgement, are prerequisites for a truly satisfying life. These qualities arise (at least in some people) while growing in maturity.

Being of service

Have you sometimes felt under pressure to perform to, or exceed, a constant, predictable standard of expectations?  Have you ever found that your skills, talents and services are no longer wanted, or have never been properly appreciated?

Anyone who offers any sort of service, be it artistic, scientific, administrative, a trade or a profession, or anything else requiring an awareness of the needs of others, can find themselves placed under excessive demands.  This applies just as much - if not more so - in unpaid activities, especially within family situations.

A reason I admire successful classical musicians is that they have shown persistence at perfecting their talents, often without knowing for many years if they will be rewarded financially for their efforts. (I will explore ideas about art in more depth in my Continual Journeys blog.)  Yet dedication to any skill or goal can require a level of self-will and even selfishness that most people are unable or unwilling to apply.


Life is frequently competitive when we offer services (for a fee) that are similar to those provided by others. When we offer services for free, their value is often under appreciated, at least until we no longer choose to offer those services.

Do you know whose services you value the most?

What are the services you provide?

Are some unpaid services of far more value to particular individuals, and to society as a whole, than many paid services?


Even Mozart had a hard time trying to develop his career once he was no longer a cute little boy.  The music industry has always been competitive.

Orson Welles never managed to repeat the success he achieved in his 20s, directing Citizen Kane.

Albert Einstein spent most of his life trying to match the scientific successes he achieved as a young clerk in the Swiss patent office.

On the other hand, a great many writers and artists have only achieved success after many years of rejection.


We humans are often prejudiced and unpleasant towards each other, and to other creatures, especially when we feel insecure about our own sense of identity. Yet sometimes we encounter an artistic expression that helps us to see the world a little deeper than we normally do. This may be why the shallow mass media, and its shallow mass audience, is so interested at present in a middle-aged, 'ordinary' woman from a small Scottish village. But how long will that interest last?

Miss Susan Boyle has merely shown that most human beings are many sided, valuable in unique ways, and can develop the capacity to express beauty, truth and wisdom - and can help to make each of us aware of our common humanity. 

Regardless of our musical taste, we should celebrate Miss Boyle's courage in standing up in front of a cynical society and singing the right song in the right place at the right time, and singing it from the heart.

I spent much of my mid teens as an unhappy "outsider" in a small village in the north of Scotland. Now, as a middle aged woman myself, I would like to thank Susan Boyle for just being herself, and for showing the rest of us that we each have the right to our own identity.

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