In several posts on here I’ve discussed how much I enjoy the series Cosmos. As much wild enthusiasm as I feel for it right now, in a sense it’s also kind of daunting to watch Cosmos. The same way it’s daunting to listen to the Beatles: after you’ve basked in the splendor of it, and you return to your own pursuits, there is a sudden sense that no matter how hard you concentrate, or how long you remain focused, the sum of your lifetime’s accomplishments shall never amount to a total half as impressive as the works these iconic masters have authored.
I have to remind myself that Cosmos itself IS the sum total of many, many years of writing and refining from Carl, one of the brightest minds of his time. Like an aspiring painter, standing in the Museum of Van Gogh, or Dali, it can feel humbling down to the point of utter futility in even trying. It is here that you’ve got to remind yourself of the words of Van Gogh:
Even the masters themselves felt moments of crushing impossibility in the pursuit of doing something relevant. I saw that quote written on the wall in gigantic letters at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I remember climbing up a staircase to see it revealed at the top. At the time I had not read Vincent’s biography or known about his long battle with chronic depression, and the words deeply shocked me. I stood there for a moment, stunned. How could someone who now seems like an untouchable pillar, far ahead of everyone, have such profound self-doubt?
I suppose that says something about the nature of creating things. It is really only in retrospect that we can analyze the value of a contribution. This idea gives me ambition to continue writing, taking pictures, making music, and all else that I do, in the hope that the sum total, someday, will amount to more than the pieces.
I wish I had taken a photo of that quote, emblazoned across a long, empty wall inside his own museum. If nothing else, to serve as a reminder to myself that in the heat of the moment, even a masterpiece can seem like a mere drop in the bucket.