Creative Authenticity: On Being You
Once the great Hasidic leader, Zusya, came to his followers.
His eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear.
“Zusya, what’s the matter? You look frightened!”
“The other day, I had a vision. In it, I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”
The followers were puzzled. “Zusya, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”
Zusya turned his gaze to heaven. “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?'”
His followers persisted. “So, what will they ask you?”
“And I have learned,” Zusya sighed, “that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the Promised Land?'”
One of his followers approached Zusya and placed his hands on Zusya’s shoulders. Looking him in the eyes, the follower demanded, “But what will they ask you?”
“They will say to me, ‘Zusya, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming.’ They will say, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?'”
–Mystic Journey by Robert Atkinson, pgs 14 – 15
The question, in all our running around, learning to apply our craft effectively, engineering marketing plans, tapping into what sells, isn’t: ‘What do buyers/audiences want?’
But, “What can I give of myself that they haven’t seen before, through the uniqueness that only I can bring?’
There’s safe art and there’s authentic art. There’s work that pushes through mediocrity, status quo and proven formulas and there’s work that does nothing more than meet expectations. There’s opportunity to tap into our vulnerability and touch the human spirit, and there’s opportunity to say what has already been said in the same way it’s been said before. There’s a difference between listening to the work itself, to the characters, and rushing over it to hammer it into what people tell us it should be.
There’s opportunity when faced with mediocrity, status quo and proven formulas to lift them with something deep, fresh and beautiful that only we can call forth from within ourselves. There’s a malleable, raw opportunity to do something incredible, something important, at every turn, in every project.
And what makes the difference?
And only you.