Sunday, July 11, 2010
as I see it...
AS I SEE IT WITH JEFF GOGUÉ
Published in the current issue of Skin and Ink Magazine. Aug. 2010
Is she born with it? Or is it Maybelline? Do you remember those commercials? The obviously beautiful woman, a professional model, in makeup applied by a professional makeup artist, with the wind blowing perfectly through her flawless hair. Are they still doing those? There is another thing I remember clearly: the first time I ever saw Stevie Ray Vaughn play the guitar. I had often heard his songs but never really thought much of them. Half-listening, I had heard his guitar playing in the background in lots of coffee shops and on random radio stations as I was driving. But one late night, I was flipping through the channels and came across his appearance at Austin City Limits on a public TV station. In all honesty, my jaw dropped as I watched this man with a grin on his face, his head tilted back and eyes closed, move his hands and fingers effortlessly over the frets and strings with such precision, speed and accuracy. I honestly questioned if he were really playing. To actually experience the complexity and hear the number of notes he was generating absolutely baffled me; the subtleties like his strumming high up on the neck to get one kind of sound or right up against the bridge to produce another, how he’d hammer-on the strings as they were being plucked or how he’d slyly turn the tone knob, the volume knob or pull up on the tremolo bar all while playing. And never once did he look down at his hands. The only word I could use to describe it was “effortless.”
Now, I actually can play the guitar and, I can assure you, it never has and never will come close to being “effortless.” Never! I don’t care how much talent you’re born with. But what is talent anyway? The best definition I could find is: “A special creative or artistic aptitude, or ability.” Aptitude is a capacity for learning, inclination or tendency. Personally, I think most people mistake “skill” for “talent.” Like I said, talent is a special capacity for learning. “Skill,” on the other hand, is the learned capacity to carry out predetermined results, often with the minimum outlay of time, energy or both. So do you need talent to attain a skill? Do people think I was born knowing how to draw? Was Stevie Ray Vaughn born knowing how to play the guitar? Of course not. We—and that includes everyone on the planet—aren’t able to speak, walk or even keep from pooping our pants when we’re born. It’s not talent that impresses people, it’s the skill, the learned capacity or ability to do something and make it look easy.
Talent, at least in my life, has generated a seed of resentment for many of the people with whom I come in contact. “I wish I had your talent,” they say to me. What they mean is, “I wish I had your skill” or “I wish I were able to do what you do and make it look easy.” Well, I truly believe that just about anyone can “make it look easy,” if they really want to. Being “talented” or, in other words, inclined to learn quickly and easily, would obviously get people to their goals faster, but it’s not the speed at which you attain something that is the most important thing. In fact, that can actually take away from one’s credibility and respect. Compare someone who worked her entire life to attain a great skill to someone who came to the same skill level quickly and with very little effort. Which one are you going to respect more? You’ll respect the one who worked hard for it and you will, by nature, suspect the other. Unless I miss my guess, I assume that anyone would rather be “respected” than “suspected.”
Whether or not she was born with it or whether she uses Maybelline, that doesn’t really matter to me as much as whether or not she is intrinsically beautiful. You may be extremely talented and things come to you easily (and you can’t help that) or you may be one of the lucky ones who have to work hard for your accomplishments. I envy the latter. Nothing feels better than accomplishment. Especially accomplishing something that’s difficult. The trick is, once you’re there, make it look easy.
R.I.P. Stevie Ray Vaughn. I’m sure you worked harder than any of us will ever know.