False Gods

When we discuss what we’re about to, the image of a specific person may come to mind. It’s unlikely, but you might also remember their smile or way of laughing, because that’s what they were so often doing. Some of their props were included in my own memory of them– a soulless, nondescript pencil case and a wrung out, plastic water bottle– the accessories of a wayward school child; even for those who were only pretending to be one. I’d compare those pretending children to the sorts of rich people us ‘regular’ folk like. You may not be old enough, but you might be– to have seen the people who were bussin up with you in the classroom eclipse your academic achievements, and leave you in a lesser tax bracket. 

These aren’t to be confused with the academically gifted, who burnt out after school was over. We’re talking of the ‘it’s all fun and games until…’ people– the swans paddling furiously beneath the water, while oozing the charisma of a rubbished pupil. They were gifted, but it wasn’t enough for them. They needed to know that they could have it all, so that they could go on to have it all. Somehow these children understood that the gift would not suffice, not for the long game. 

There are three things needed for success. Maybe it’s four things, maybe it’s five. ‘Visualisation, belief, and action.’ ‘Charisma, magnetism, strategic vision, and business acumen.’ Or, ‘confidence, persistence, organisation, ‘getting along’ (friendliness?), and emotional resilience.’ But two words seem to say it better: ‘talent’, and ‘hard work’. Still, we zero-in on ‘giftedness’ to perceive it as the starting point, or, even if you’d argue otherwise, the only point. 

‘Naturalness bias’ could be described as ‘a preference for the natural over the synthetic’, yet, its true definition depicts our fondness of inborn excellence. It’s a bias that favours those who were ‘born to do it’, over those who have essentially ‘gone against their nature’ to. There’s so much talk of giftedness, because we enjoy to watch a person click into place. But similarly, we love chronicles of destiny, because we were born to love them. 

In an ideal world, we’d all be living out our lives as the hand that perfectly fits the glove; each knowing our talents, so that we could chase a life that accommodates them. The prospect is precious, but this seems a rarer gem– the idea that we are also born with all the necessary tools to ride our gift into the sunset. ‘Everything we need is already inside of us’– despicably heartening, yet true, if destiny really is a string of events. That would mean we move through life, unlocking the weapons already in our arsenal with every new level. But how do we know when and where these new levels are? We don’t, but our gifts have entered us into the game, then it’s up to us to fight, jump, duck and run. 

People who have managed to achieve this level of collaboration are mistaken for gods. “On some fundamental level,” writes author Malcom Gladwell, “we believe the closer something is to its original state, the more desirable it is.” Really, the person who excels is one who grows good at working with the gift and its giver. That’s how it should be, and would’ve been for all of us.

One response to “False Gods”

  1. […] In this blogpost about the idea of being gifted, I spoke about ‘naturalness bias’, which I found in this article about why people reward talent over hard work. People tend to appreciate people who give everything to be brilliant less than they do people who don’t have to try to be. This is true of jobs and the talented candidates that get in over qualified ones; we’re also likely to prefer fresh juice better than squash, and other things that are grown instead of made. It’s an unconscious belief, to think the assured path is made of ease, and that the things that are fated are the things we glide through. But on that same low-level consciousness is a view that has been proven time and time again, so much by our own lives that we barely have to think about it– that easy is cheap. […]

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