You Call Yourself a Rose?

I've noticed people hesitate to call themselves painters, improvisors, actors, musicians, and writers. They think enjoying the activity isn't enough, as if there were an  invisible wall between the doer and the deed. Their conscience tells them, "Only those who've achieved success are worthy of the honor." And I am sympathetic to the inclination. They respect the craft enough to aspire to it, to stand in awe of it. They have reverence for the great works; they have been moved by them, and attempt to achieve a similar, seemingly impossible, feat. They are brave for even considering it. But, their heart discourages them, "How dare you bestow the title upon yourself? Weeds aren't roses."

I studied philosophy for a solid chunk of my adult life. And I'm a fan. These men wrote in the age before the Internet, text messaging, and TV shows on DVD. They had a long time to think about shit. And it showed. Their ideas are refined, developed, beautiful, and insightful. As my studies came to a close, it became time to put my stamp on the canon, to contribute something novel to a saturated and immensely intimidating body of work. 

I couldn't. 

My pen was stifled by the shadows of my heroes. And, ultimately, I quit philosophy. I lacked the courage to call myself a philosopher. It is a sore subject for me.

Now, having moved to Chicago to try my hand at performing and writing, I find myself in a similar situation. Classes are complete. Certificates handed out. Spit into the world that could care less if I spent my days writing plays or watching Internet porn. The spectre of Woody Allen, Dostoyevsky, and Aaron Sorkin haunt my keyboard. 

We must outgrow our heroes. They do not make us small. They are lighthouses proving our task isn't impossible, that greatness is attainable. They shine a light on the ocean abyss. They point home, make us large, and support our trembling hands. And our heroes have not written the last word, perfected the major scale, or solved the ontological proof of God. The world is wide open and there is plenty of room at the top of the mountain. Greatness desires company; it isn't an exclusive boys club. It is a lonely kid on the playground hoping someone has the courage to say hello. 

Your sensitivity and deference to your craft prove that you are worthy of the title. The love of improvising makes you an improvisor. Whether you are good yet is irrelevant. Love is what earns the title. You are an improvisor, writer, actor, painter, musician, teacher, father, lover, athlete, and philosopher. If you don't have the courage to call yourself one, self doubt will strip you of your sturdiness. It will poison your drive and rust your love. It will steal something beautiful from the world.   

We weeds are all roses. The name is everything.

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