Beautiful Things Don't Ask For Attention
Nor do they beg, cry, pander, hustle, bribe, or coerce. Intrinsic beauty radiates outward from its source. It doesn’t launch multimillion dollar marketing campaigns to garner attention for itself. Truly beautiful things are just noticed. Then, one by one, other people start calling attention to them to share in their splendor.
This wasn’t my concept. It’s actually a line from James Thurber’s adventure tale, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The story was later adapted into a Hollywood film starring Sean Penn and Ben Stiller. You can watch the magical moment where Penn’s character says that prominent line. I’m not exactly sure what compelled me to start thinking about it; I haven’t even seen the whole movie. But something about this idea of an organic "intrinsic beauty" stuck with me.
I love this Walter Payton quote: “You tell people when you’re good at something. But people tell you when you’re great.” I feel like Payton was reaching at this same idea. All day, every day, we’re being bombarded with messages which cry for or even steal our attention. At some point, you just become numb to the whole thing and forget to think or look around for yourself. Why ask what’s important, when you can just take it from others?
The irony here is that I spend a lot of my time thinking about marketing and how to attract more readers to my blog or essays. Which is exactly why it's so important to remind myself of this idea. Marketing will help you focus attention, but there also must be something of substance worth focusing on. When you get unsolicited spam in your inbox, it’s because somebody got lazy, and decided it’s easier to ask you to look, rather than make something worth discovering.
Think back to the last time you watched the sunset slowly fuse itself into the horizon. Recall the utter feeling of awe when you were out in the middle of nowhere and looked up at the billions of stars shining down from trillions of miles away. Both of these beautiful moments would have existed on their own, whether you were there to witness them or not. It’s often said, that the true mark of a someone's character is what you do when nobody’s watching. I believe this is also true for creating meaningful work. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter if nobody sees it. Beauty itself is enough.