If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Monday 29 October 2012
Read gnomica 1-150 here!
Each morning when I awake,
I experience again a supreme pleasure –
that of being Salvador Dali.
Salvador Dali (11 May 1904 – 23 Jan 1989)
This the ‘weird’ wonderful painter with the handle-bar mustache who once admitted with characteristic flare that, “There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.” No more a shrinking wallflower he than that other inimitably high-camp narcissist, Truman Capote!
And each is in his own métier a stunningly good artist – the latter with words (most memorably Breakfast at Tiffany’s  and In Cold Blood ), the former, with paint (most memorably his surrealistic fantasies in realist mode!)
One does hesitate momentarily and wonder if one should be shocked or delighted at such overtly raw self-love, devoid as it is of the humility one is supposed to put on display when it comes to talents of one’s own. But how can you not smile with genuine amusement at such a theater of exhibitionistic self-confidence? Why deny it if you are truly talented?
Amusing as this obsession with self may be, it does raise some interesting questions not unworthy of scrutiny. Why is it that we are supposed to be ‘humble’ about ourselves? Is it the flip side of – to use the current cant – ‘low self-esteem’? I feel so inadequate down there where I live but I do have this talent and so why shouldn’t I be entitled to keep reminding the world of its wonderfulness?
Now, I don’t know much about Dali and how he carried on, but Truman Capote, for all his obvious talent as a wordsmith, did in the end come across in public as a miserable mess macerated by Beam and Beefeater and pumped on pills to the point of embarrassing incoherence. Not that I wish to or am even remotely equipped to do the psychobiography thing, but in the privacy of my quiet thoughts I venture to assume that there were serious issues of self-worth in the case of this hugely talented writer. Does someone who is reasonably grounded in his own sense of himself need to trumpet his specialness with such relentless ostentation? Or is it just part of the paraphernalia of self-promotion in order to promote his output financially?
My idea here is that everybody probably fits at different points along a spectrum of self-valorization at different points in one’s life – and individuals like Dali and Capote see themselves (not – given their very real abilities – entirely without warrant) as outliers, extreme exemplars of what we “should not” be: boastful braggarts in-your-face about themselves.
But there is also something we think of as ‘false humility’. Thus, one might elect to argue that being dishonest in this sense is no less objectionable than being honest in the other. What to do then? Maybe Satchmo, another great artist — this one with his music – can cut the Gordian knot of this dilemma with his observation (open to a variety of interpretations) that, “You blows who you is.”