Every life is a creative life because how could it not be? We are literally creating every moment we live based on what we do or don’t do.
Each minor or major or in-between choice leads to another, and then another, until before you know it decades have gone by. The very act of living means we are making something that has never existed before.
That was not meant to reek of new ageism, even though it does.
And no, we are not in an episode of This Is Us, now in its final season in case you have somehow managed to not be assaulted by NBC/Universal’s currently relentless marketing blitz.
It is merely to state, and own, that we humans are ALL creative beings. That is to say every one of us, according to the latter’s dictionary definition, has an imagination and an original idea(s).
Which has nothing to do with what is commonly referred to as talent.
I’m reminded of this with each hour I’ve spent watching Peter Jackson’s irresistible Get Back, an eight-hour documentary of the documentary that chronicled the 1969 Beatles’ creation of their iconic Let It Be album (Note: Somehow now weirdly being streamed only on Disney Plus).
It also tugs massively at the heart with the passing of international screen icon and humanitarian, Sidney Poitier this week.
Just as it nostalgically takes us back to any number of seminal artistic triumphs we’ve enjoyed that were created by people like film director Peter Bogdanovich and songwriter Marilyn Bergman.
And no, it doesn’t matter that the combined ages of the last three is 268. Or that it we added in Betty White last week we’d be at 367.
Not to mention where we’d be at if we included the two long-deceased Beatles.
Talent is a natural aptitude or skill in a certain area that, in its extreme form, gets developed far beyond an ability to just merely do something well.
Cultivated in the right way and at the right time it can transform our way of thinking, entertain us beyond belief and, in rare circumstances, change the world.
Often for the good and, sometimes, even for the bad.
Jeopardy’s current $1,000,000 champ Amy Schneider, a trans woman, has begun to change our perception of who becomes a champion, and not only on a game show.
Our most recent former president, leading a movement that’s huckster-ized fantasy into fact and earned him more than a billion dollars in donations, leads the most anti-Democratic movement in the history of the U.S.
Dark vs. light. Light vs. Dark.
And who said the Marvel Universe isn’t relevant? (Note: Okay, I have).
But let’s stay with the light for now.
Watching The Beatles in their messy creative space amid all that footage, as any aspiring artist should, the level and ease of their talent is their least surprising quality. In fact, it’s a given.
What’s more fascinating is observing just how young, goofy and utterly, humanly flawed each one of them are.
– Paul’s smart, boundlessly creative and so up it’s annoying.
– John broods, cuts through the bullshit, does weird voices and likes very much to do drugs.
– George, the youngest and perhaps wisest, desperately wants to be heard but seldom is.
– Ringo, loyal and unfazed by everyone, is up for anything except for all the unnecessary drama. When that happens he clandestinely exits the room.
Watching them you think, is that… it??? They remind me of my high school or college friends but with more colorful clothing. (Note: I’d buy a copy of any one of their shirts off the rack and wear them tomorrow if only someone had the brains or talent to reproduce them. And so would you).
This, of course, is the point.
My experience with the uber talented is not only are they all quite human, both good and bad, but that in real life, they can be so down to earth, surprisingly normal (or expectedly, abnormally normal) that, frankly, it’s shocking.
I was fortunate to meet Sidney Poitier some years ago at restaurant because a friend knew him and he invited us to sit down at a large table of his family and friends.
I figured to myself, Oh Steve, (Note: This was before my Chair days), don’t say anything stupid and DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, react to how handsome you think this 80 year-old man is.
Well, before I could process all that and several minutes into various smaller conversations around the table, Sidney suddenly puts a hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye and says, So Steve, what do you do?
I mean, it’s like he was interested. Though, wouldn’t any stranger at a table be if he was seated next to you and there was a lull in the conversation?
Actually, not necessarily, which is part of what made him who he was. He was just a guy with extraordinary talents. He knew it, I knew. That was a given. But he also was a mensch, had a life and was a lot more than that.
As for Bogdanovich, I decades ago I worked on his movie, Mask. To this day, he knew more about film than any one I’ve ever met and was not shy about proving it in every conversation.
That and his toweringly intellectual way of speaking could come off as high-fallutin’ and rarified. Yet get him on the topic of his late, murdered girlfriend, Dorothy Stratten, whom he’d just written a book about, and he was no different than any grieving uncle who’d just lost the love of his life.
It wasn’t affectation. It wasn’t a pose. It was simply a truly messed up guy who had been through it and would never be the same.
None of which changed the effete public persona he liked to present to the world and came so naturally to him. When I ran into him some years later in Westwood on my way to a movie he’d just seen, he greeted me with a huge hello and called from across the street: I’m doing a picture at Metro! Give me a call!
Metro, I thought? Metro? This was the late eighties. MGM hadn’t been Metro in, um….well…forever? Nevertheless it was as real and as human and inviting as a guy like him could ever be. That is, happily greeting a young man he had formerly employed by name and publicly inviting him to come see him at… Metro!
What you learn about talent over the years is that it doesn’t replace anyone’s humanity or raise it to a different level. It is only one more characteristic for a person to create a life that reflects who they are based on the choices they have made and will make.
Choosing wisely, or more to the point, authentically, is the key.