Who the Hell Am I?

I read Christopher Volpe’s daily comments in ‘Inside Art’ today. It’s a lengthier article than what I’ll duplicate below, but in it he expressed a notion that resonates deeply within me.

I was an engineer working for the Boeing Aerospace Company but that was never who I ‘was’. I always knew that despite the thirty years of doing it ‘for someone else’! That association was what I acknowledged to anyone who asked but it was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that could be seen by others. I have sometimes told people that retirement is the only thing I’ve ever been any good at. It isn’t because I wasn’t good at what I did but because the goodness belonged in a real sense to someone or something other than me.

Garrison Keeler in spite of whatever faults he may have had clarified that concept for me when he stated that a writer is not someone who has a book appear on the New York Times best sellers list or who wins a Pulitzer prize. No! It is by definition just someone who writes. So … I have accepted that I am a writer — a damned good one I think although no one has ever concurred on that. By the same token, without a Nobel prize, I am a scientist — a theoretical physicist and cosmologist if only because its what I do whether successfully or not. I am also an artist — again, if only by virtue of ‘doing’ it. I’m sure I’m other things as well, including an asshole, but those are the big three.

But now the quote from Volpe:

“The problem clarifies when you’re at a party or some social gathering and someone asks what you do. If you live in America, because of the way our society is set up, we all immediately start talking about what we do for work, which is to say, how we make money. I’m told that most of the time, that conversation does not go that way outside of America and the UK.

“How much more interested in someone you meet at a party would you be if during small talk you didn’t hear someone say, “I work for this or that Company,” and instead learned they’re trying pastels to see what they can do with them? Or renting a cello and taking lessons…. or they just bought a kayak and they’ve been taking it out at dawn before work.”

Now there’s a thought.

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