February 07, 2015

What is Talent?

We are somewhat obsessed, as a culture, with finding talent.  The entertainment industry is saturated with shows like The Voice, Pitch Perfect, America's Got Talent, American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, etc..  We value athletes, musicians, actors, dancers, and people who look good.

I think about these things a lot as I'm raising a family.  Part of me believes that my children could become really good at anything that I put money, time, and energy into helping them develop.  I've seen this time and time again, skilled children are rarely born prodigies.  Skilled children are the result of years and years of parental investment.  

I am someone who loves good music, cries at beautiful dancing, is mesmerized by athletic skill, and learns much from those with an aesthetic eye.  I appreciate the diversity of talents even as I contemplate the value we place on different talents.

Why do we value performing above almost any other talent?  

Days before a houseful of Christmas company arrived, my dog ate a plate of chocolate Christmas treats and wrecked havoc on our basement Berber carpets.  When we tried to clean up we ended with a disgusting mess that I was doubtful would ever come clean.

Honestly, all of our carpets were looking pretty bad and I was getting quotes for new carpeting.  On a fluke, I requested an online carpet cleaning referral quote and the next day I was opening my door to a self-employed older gentleman with a carpet steam cleaner he appeared to have rented at the Home Depot.  He charged me $25 per room with stairs free.

I almost turned him away.  With my eyebrows raised I explained that I was expecting a professional carpet cleaning. He smiled and assured me that I would not be disappointed.

I watched this man clean carpets with a skill and finesse I have rarely seen.  He was amazing.  As he cleaned he taught me tricks of the trade.  Here was a wealth of knowledge.  

His main advice was to use very hot, almost boiling water and very little soap.

Like a magician he transformed my rugs, they looked new.  For $125 I was able to clean that which I was prepared to replace for $5000.  Not only that, but he helped me (almost) get sharpie marker out of my leather couches and inspired me to get stains out of my white ikea slip covers with hot water and bleach.  

This humble man honestly changed my life.  Stain removal is not something I have focused on or learned much about.  Now, I see what a cool, valuable skill that is to have.

I have similarly been amazed as I've tasted mouth-watering food cooked in a home without electricity powered only a couple hours a day by a generator,seen intricate clothing sewn on a foot-crank powered sewing machine by a skilled Philipino tailor, listened to an inspiring lesson taught by a simple woman without a high school diploma, or have had technically minded friends fix our electrical shortages, broken pool pumps, and septic issues.  

I value the vast talents of entertainment only because I see the years and years of practice that such a skill demands.  

I'm concerned that as a whole, our culture is failing to see the value in similarly developed skill.  Skills, that while being less likely to produce fame or even wealth, just might be more conducive to creating a happy, fulfilled home life.  

My children have learned much on sports teams, in music lessons and choirs, and performing on stages.  I value these skills even as I am desperately seeking to expose them to skilled teachers of domestic, technical, and culinary skills.  

My soul feels content as they work with their hands planting seeds, fixing engines, building, sewing, cooking, or creating.  To create something beautiful from raw materials is a skill worth encouraging.  

Fixing, designing, arranging, etc., are these lost arts?  Are these skills that we think will just magically develop while we spend hours and hours and hours teaching them to throw a ball through a hoop?  Or better yet, allow them to spend hours and hours of time creating imaginative computer worlds becoming gods of a virtual world with no skills to build a life in this physical world?

Are we placing more value on the ability to appear successful and popular than the ability to actually live a successful and happy life?

The Kardasians have replaced Leave it to Beaver.  I'm certain this isn't progress.

Today, are we are replacing the talent of shopping for the talent of creating?  In our busy life, TIME is a more precious resouce than MONEY.  People are almost amazed if you make anything yourself, and some tend to scorn the fact that you "must not have had anything better to do with your time".

There is something in my soul that gasped when Drew forfeited a spot on the highschool basketball team to spend more time at home and in the barn.  But, as I watch him hang shelves in our closet or masterfully work with animals, I feel his success.  

Talent is deeper than an ability to entertain.  There is much to be learned in life.  Wisdom, skill, and education aren't always accompanied by a university degree, wealth, or fame.

This is what I think about while I fold laundry.

Life is good.


Lieren said...

I love this! Thank you for sharing your inspired thoughts!!

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Lindsey said...

I so agree! I often felt not "enough" as a kid because I couldn't sing, was so-so at sports and dance. My siblings and friends seemed to have amazing talents and I had none. My mom helped me to see that I had talents in other areas, just not the showy popular ones!

shannon said...

This post came at just the right time for me. Thank you!

Shauna Thompson said...

Love your thoughts on talents! I think as a society we consume our time and money with the "popular" talents and those very basic skills of cooking, cleaning, and sewing are left by the wayside. Yet, these very skills need to be taught, learned and used. Thanks for the reminder!

We just studied about the parable of the talents last week. I enjoyed all of the facts, like how much a talent weighed back during this time period. Having a lot of talents can be a balancing act in keeping them all up, but oh the joy in being able to do so many things, and some talents carry into other talents creating more.

I will quit rambling, but always like to read your perspective on things because of your talent of writing! :)

Ane said...

You're absolutely right that the flashy kind of talent and skill is the kind we see the most on TV, probably because it is perfect for a media as visual TV.

However, there are also examples of the opposite. In Denmark there is a show (running on its seventh season, I think) about a man who decided to move to a farm and live the "old-fashioned" way, i.e. using as few modern tools as possible. He builds, grows, cooks, brews and raises livestock and he does it so well and with so much enthusiasm that everybody loves watching it.
But of course, his show doesnt have one fifth of the population glued to the screen - probably because he doesn't have celebrity judges deciding whether his apple cider, chicken coop or tilled fields will have to leave the show :-)

Becky said...

I really appreciate this perspective! I had baby #6 in November and my sister just referred me to your blog so I could get some ideas on parenting a big family. I have read back through some of your archives and found some things that have really helped me. Thank you!

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