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To be an amateur

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feeling of failure overwhelms me from time to time. Usually in moments of loneliness and often accompanied by feelings of sadness and melancholy. The feeling of failure is about bygone dreams And deep wishes. And about failure. With reproaches about wanting to live more lovingly, to be more efficient, to read more, to be more intelligent, more engaged, more incisive, to understand better, to do more. Slowly it threatens to slip away from me. Where am I staying?

My thinking with this seems to involve both a hidden promise and a demand: there is not only more possibly, it is also needed. So apparently it's not good enough yet. But what is not good enough? It doesn't seem to be about purpose here, the road to it, or even the result, but about something you might call "success. Although you might think that to be successful or not to be successful is precisely the result, success is actually about a assessment of the intended result. In addition, the success we speak of here involves a one-sided conception of meaning: success in the sense of financial gain, fame, numbers, career.

Some confuse such a sense of failure with uncertainty, but I don't think that's it. Not exactly at least. I'm not so much insecure about who I am, what I can do or what I want. Rather, in these moments I have a sense of not being fulfilled, and not mattering. That I have to earn my existence. Not who I am, but to which I am. It seems, now that I think about it, to stem from a hidden credo of life: you don't matter until you turn in the promise.

Somehow it comforts me when Chesterton writes about the first and also last lesson of life; namely, that in anything worthwhile the inner is far more primal than the outer. About his father he writes in The history of my life:

'Overall, I'm glad he was never an artist. That might have prevented him from becoming an amateur. That might have spoiled his career, his private career. He could never have achieved cheap success with all those thousands of things, which he did so successfully.'

To do the things you do with conviction, not because it brings commercial success or financial gain. That you don't have to depend on the success of "winning"; for pay, ratings, visitors, career. But rather the success that you achieve as human beings. Seen or not seen. But always in the privacy of the soul and within the security of connection with loved ones. I like that. That is how I want to live. And that my children may one day speak of me like that.

Your beauty should not be in outward appearances, such as artfully braided hair, gold jewelry or elegant clothing, but in what is hidden in your heart, in a soft and quiet mind. That is an imperishable jewel that God considers precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4)


Erwin de Ruiter

"One man tries to express himself in books, another in boots; both are likely to fail." - G.K. Chesterton

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