Coping with mediocrity

It is likely settled admission that in the pursuit of one’s open identity (that is, one’s career or other publicized endeavour) most of us will never achieve anything more than what is objectively classified as mediocrity. The signature may be softened by calling it ordinariness or being commonplace. Though in some instances the inescapable stratification is inferiority. The least abrasive view of mediocrity is that it is adequate. It’s a label we attribute not only to people (perhaps even to oneself) but also to any of the other popular human undertakings or creations, whether gastronomy, the fine arts, professional sport, literature, engineering, architecture, furnishings, apparel fashion, jewellery, broadcasting or technological devices. It is not unusual to tranquillize the distinction by differentiating between high-end and low-end; namely, mediocre.

As a logical state, it is arguable that without mediocrity there can be no superiority. I doubt however that that is a sustainable persuasion. A bad meal, even without comparatives, is still a bad meal.  If something doesn’t work, it isn’t merely a matter of comparison. Similarly being eclipsed by others in whatever we do is no reason to eliminate or overlook one’s endeavours. The regiment survives upon its mutuality not its individuality. Likewise the modest dandelion on a fresh summer day may be as glorious as the complex orchid in the tropical forests. Some may seek to dismiss the whole network of classification along the theme of some incomparable universe. Personally I haven’t yet succeeded to that unparalleled existential sophistication.

Nonetheless neither can I entirely diminish what is comonplace. Hidden within even the most overtly uninspiring models are often harboured enduring ingredients. The well known arguments between Country Mouse and City Mouse for example have never succeeded to reduce either as compared to the other. Indeed it is their exquisite separateness and contradictions which preserve their uniqueness and thus their attraction. The same may be said of education as distinguished between the liberal arts, the trades or the professions. Certainly within their individual scope, there is room for assessment of mediocrity or otherwise. But in terms of a more global examination, one must be careful not to ascribe mediocrity to what is nothing more than individuality or even incompatibility. I recognize that I am treading upon rather marshy soil in review of this delicate subject. My intent is not to excuse or idolize mediocrity as some god given entitlement; rather to open the discourse to a less critical or narrow insight, one which may otherwise be at risk of missing the point. If, after all, mediocrity is the plague of the common man, we owe it to ourselves to elaborate on this condemnation if only as a courtesy, dare I say a common courtesy.

One’s assessment of status as mediocre or otherwise frequently evolves from predetermined quantifications or attributes, the violation of which is of necessity less than appealing.  I am here reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s On Walden Pond which was once considered rather quaint and rural but otherwise less than inviting (at least by so-called popular appraisal). Certainly if one aspired to the urban heights of fashionable New York City, there was no comparison.  I do not equate difference as the sole reason for tolerance of a comparative; but neither do I highlight an alternative merely because it is different.  Both expressions demand analysis to determine whether there are within them qualities worthwhile.

The analysis becomes tangled if dual expressions are ascribed identical objectives. If that were indeed a proper determination then surely one may rank superior or inferior to the other. But not everyone for example makes a profession of cooking; so to call the amateur chef mediocre has in my opinion missed the point of the enterprise and the assessment of its value. By extraordinary extrapolation the activity of the common bee is hardly less auspicious than that of the Queen or drone; rather they are merely different.

A drone is a male bee. Unlike the female worker bee, a drone has no stinger. He does not gather nectar or pollen and cannot feed without assistance from worker bees. His only role is to mate with a maiden queen in nuptial flight.

Nonetheless there are circumstances in which mediocrity has a significant edification and commensurate accreditation and encouragement.  Notwithstanding that I am a hackneyed piano player I unhesitatingly condone the superlative renditions of Horowitz.  But my own lacklustre talent has not once limited my appreciation of the venture. Mediocrity has its place in short.