Let's Not Leave It To The Professionals

Those of us who take RCN Cable may have seen the ad. Establishing shot of an RCN office building, followed by a shot of a graying individual at a desk, shaking his head over a sheet of paper. Crumpling it up, he pops off a shot at a trash can -- and misses. Picking up a box, he takes another shot, and misses again. A box, another miss. A coil of cable. Finally, the line comes up: "Some people think they're athletes. Let's leave it to the professionals, shall we?" Followed by an ad for the Sports Network.

I understand RCN's economic imperative. They need viewers, and people who are shooting hoops and playing piano are not watching pro basketball and guzzling the sponsor's beer. From every other point of view, "leaving it to the professionals" is a losing game.

Shall we spend our personal lives getting fat on pap from the boob tube? Shall we spend our public lives accepting as gospel self-serving krapola from corporate PR departments and professional politicians? Shall we limit our aspirations to being knowledgeable consumers of a few people's creativity? Or shall we learn to create for ourselves?

A consumer, no matter how knowledgeable, is only a consumer. He or she adds nothing to the sum of human endeavor. This is no derogation of criticism. A person who writes a blog on Hong Kong martial arts cinema is a creator -- of critiques on Hong Kong martial arts cinema. If you don't value such critiques, don't knock them, just don't read them.

In the artistic world, some call it "Mozart Syndrome." Joe Whoozis used to play the piano pretty well, but now he's forty, and he says with morose satisfaction, "When Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for a year." The message is, of course, that if people cannot do music as well as Mozart, they should give up on music altogether.

I believe the contrary. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing badly. Just do it.