The unreflecting filament

Learning, really learning, about the lives of people who have accomplished truly great things can be like inspecting an incandescent light and realizing that there is a burning filament at the heart of it all; something in and of itself very small through which power is surging, slowly consuming it, but filling the space around it with a glow. Like that filament, the people who accomplish great things–not just historically noteworthy things in an amoral sense, but noble and meaningful things–give themselves up to being possessed by the efforts they care too much about to set aside or take long rest from. They are too busy burning with desire and conviction and the yearning to reveal some uncreated glory to really take a lot of time to reflect on themselves and enjoy what they have done and become. The burning filament, even if it was a person, couldn’t step outside the light bulb and enjoy the light that it gives off without turning off the light. It is too preoccupied with the pain and passion that makes it shine to enjoy itself in the way that a spectator might. Its joy is in the burning and the light that is coming through it. There is a sense in which true greatness is self-unconscious. The moment that we become comfortably self-aware and self-satisfied is the moment that we stop accomplishing things. This is how artists flame out.

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