A Short Tale to Make a Point
by Paul Dale Anderson
There’s a story that famous artists, musicians, and writers love to tell--each in their own way--which is, essentially, the same story. It goes something like this:
Once upon a time there was a young artist (or musician or writer) who thought he had talent and dreamed of pursuing a career as an artist (or musician or writer).
One day, this young artist (or musician or writer) met Michelangelo (or Beethoven or Shakespeare) and asked the Great Master if his painting (score or poem) showed talent. Michelangelo (or Beethoven or Shakespeare) looked at the painting (listened to the score, read the sonnet or story) and shook his head in despair. “Do you really want my advice?” asked the Great Master. “Of course,” said the young man. “Then you should give up this silly notion of wanting to become a great artist (or musician or writer) and instead take up a valuable trade or become a merchant.”
The young man was heartbroken. He thanked the Master for the good advice. Then he went off to pursue a career as a merchant.
Years later, the same man met Michelangelo (or Beethoven or Shakespeare) quite by accident at a civic function. “Maestro,” said the no-longer-young man, “I want to thank you again for the excellent advice you once gave me. Thanks to you, I am now a successful merchant, and the richest man in Rome (Munich, London).”
“What advice did I give you?” asked the Master.
“Why, don’t you remember? You told me to give up my thoughts of ever becoming a great artist (musician or writer). Obviously, you must have known I had no artistic talent. I took your advice and became a merchant. And now I am wealthy and very happy.”
“I never said you had no talent,” said the Master. “In fact, I seem to remember you had great talent.”
“But, then, why on earth did you tell me to give up thoughts of becoming an artist (musician or writer) and become instead a merchant?”
“I say that to everyone who asks if they have talent. You see, my friend, many men have talent. But only those who know in their innermost hearts that they were meant to become artists (or musicians or writers) and therefore disregard my advice--only those--will ever become great. You see, it makes no difference what I tell them (or what I told you). If they (you) have what it takes to become great, then they (you) will do it despite (or in spite of) whatever I tell them. You, my friend, were not meant to be an artist (or musician or writer). If you had been, what I said would never have mattered at all.”
© Copyright 1987 Paul Dale Anderson