Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Concentration prolonged in time

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On meeting people renowned for achievement, we are often surprised (and perhaps comforted) by how human and fallible they seem. The great scholar errs about a date; the moralist has a chronic twitch; the chief executive indulges in an inept witticism or commits a grammatical blunder. Conversely, we are often stunned by the brilliance, or humbled by the correctness, of individuals who, we later discover, have achieved little or nothing. Behind this paradox lies one of the mysteries of achievement: that it seems to be won less by intensity than by integrity, less by aggressive assaults than by concentration indefinitely and heroically prolonged in time. Individuals who seek gain of a relatively momentary nature regularly short-circuit their own concentration and defeat themselves in the continuum; indeed, some of their verbal sharpness may be fueled by the petulant awareness of their failure in the larger sphere. Preeminent individuals, whatever their attitude toward instants and moments, exist more in the larger chambers and outdoor stretches of time than in its fractions and compartments. They are the through-traffic of life, while we others are condemned to creep along the business routes.

Robert Grudin, Time and the Art of Living

Written by nevalalee

August 13, 2017 at 7:30 am

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