These words by Max Beerbohm kind of summarize my idea behind my quote-driven mini-essays: “How many charming talents have been spoiled by the instilled desire to do ‘important’ work! Some people are born to lift heavy weights. Some are born to juggle with golden balls.”
These essays, of course, are the work of a juggler (whether my “talent” for them is “charming” is an entirely other matter). They’re nothing to be ashamed of, but neither (a tad ironically) are they anything to be proud of. I suspect all endeavors ought to subsist in this neutrality land. Just juggle, then move on. Aim to give people pleasure, to make their lives more enjoyable through your work, then move on without another thought about it.
It all reminds me of Chesterton’s view on art. A book review I wrote for Touchstone hits the topic squarely. Excerpt:
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Chesterton’s artistic endeavors ranged from the lighthearted to the serious. His lighter artistic endeavors included “rowdy songs, drinking songs, and fighting songs,” little poems, and stories. Peters gives examples of all of them, but shows that Chesterton’s lighter endeavors often carried a heavy point.
Even something as seemingly inconsequential as men singing in a tavern was an important topic to Chesterton, especially if someone was trying to eliminate it. “Once men sang together round a table in chorus; now one man sings alone, for the absurd reason that he can sing better. If scientific civilization goes on . . . only one man will laugh, because he can laugh better than the rest.”