The title of this post refers to a song that has been viewed on Youtube nearly 400 million times (more than Beethoven or any other classic, even rock). The song is famous for being terrible. Just like when people stop or slow down down to view a terrible accident, people are drawn to terrible things. This song even has parodies -one of them has been seen by nearly 10 million people. How can one parody something that is already terrible? I leave you to figure out.
This song made me think about about levels of creativity and what it does for the creator’s popularity. Creativity can be of a low order, be mediocre or it can be brilliant. It attracts an audience at either ends- terrible things are popular and beautiful things are popular too. Both expressions set a standard for the creator, i.e. if you can created a song called ‘What does the fox say?’, the people will expect a worse song next time otherwise they will be disappointed (this might explain why the parody is doing so well). On the other hand, if you have done something wonderful, people expect something even better the next time. But not mediocre things. No one cares about anything in the middle. No one talks about mediocre things. So what does the fox say? It will agree with Martha Graham who said, ‘The only sin is mediocrity.’
PS- Between being known for something terrible or mediocre, I prefer to be at the other end of the scale, i.e., making beautiful things for its own sake (although if it attracts popularity, I shall not complain!)
I have finally committed to doing some creative work that may not bring so much money as a salaried job. But I am committed to following my heart and I know that money will come from somewhere as long as I go with my heart. Going with your heart can give you special courage.
I bring to you today, the astonishing story of W H Murray, the Scottish mountaineer who climbed the Himalayas. His love of climbing captured the heart of his German captors during World War II and they respected him for the three years that he spent as prisoner of war. During his time there he had to write his beautiful romantic prose on toilet paper. His manuscript was found and destroyed by the Gestapo. But Murray’s response was to start again, despite poor health from near starvation and the risk of being found out again. This remembered writing was published in 1947 as the book, Mountaineering in Scotland, and was followed by the sequel, Undiscovered Scotland, in 1951.
The deprivation of the prison life seems to have actually set off Murray’s creativity. In 1951, he also wrote the book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. This book has the following extract, usually incorrectly attributed to Goethe because of the couple of lines derived from Faust (the bits highlighted are the ones you usually see on the Internet)–
“…but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Let us learn from the inspiring life of W H Murray and his beautiful words that one can live by our creativity, even in the most dire circumstances by overcoming our hesitancy to commit.