It is one thing to seek growth on the private scale and another to reach it at the crossroads of varying processes, convictions, and practical education. There seem to be some people who never even want to see growth, who jealously whisper: bury the talent, hide it from the world, and at all costs do not let it prosper. There is a risk in the attempt: the risk of failure, the risk of not being in the right place at the right time, the risk of being misunderstood.
So there are times when the wise keep all jewels to themselves; it is for others to bring a person into relief, following the contours of stronger character traits, bringing them up out of the flatness into dimensional view. The social dimension. The common horizon of meaning, the single entablature within which figures gather to tell a story.
Let us consider some of the difficulties of reaching that frieze. According to a 19th-century poem, "To have inspired not once either hatred or envy, Such is to have fulfilled one's promise". I thought quite a bit about that line and consider it may mean learning to keep to the background and speaking up only when entirely necessary. Of course, to follow Epictetus' advice (1) one is not to be troubled by others' opinions as they are not in one's control. There are many elements to be considered as one weighs one's life.
Indeed, at such 'market times' (for the market is the place where the scales are), one may decide integrity is most valuable, which may mean becoming removed.
This just means becoming relevant to another picture which may not be socially visible at a given time, even if society claims one is out of the game. Portraying that other picture used to be the function of art: filling out reality to point to those ideals that are also real but perhaps not readily apparent.
The true artist might in fact not be writing, painting, or composing but merely living a life stringing bartered beads of spontaneity afforded by the surprise that is each new day. At the waterfront yesterday, I saw people bring little boats attached to their cars, and one by one they all entered the water: some to fish, some to send dogs splashing after balls, some to rock about in rubber rings. Where other people might go into debt to holiday at a distant resort, these people were using time (as in art) trouvé to make do with what they have. Something out of nothing.
Such are the people I look to when I wish to tame my intellectual restlessness - for some reason, since I was a child, I have been measuring my performance against thinkers who are far beyond my league, which consistently fills my sails with awe and opens up the space before me into a breadth I know I cannot see the end of.
But to look to people who make enough from what others might call not enough is to point to a smart way of living. It helps to have had a childhood of extremes, the kind of growing up that no healthy parent would encourage but which teaches, if painfully, what it means to make bad decisions, like getting a senior administrative position in one's twenties at the cost of outshining, so removing?, an older rival. There is nothing abstract, to my mind, about real (as opposed to posing) virtue. One's title or social standing is not to overshadow integrity. Possibility is to be tempered by danger.
The Egyptian hieroglyph for 'speak' is curiously the cobra and the hand (djd, tchd). The danger of the snake comes with the potential of the hand, its τευχε: tool that can fashion. Even Moses' saving staff was connected to the snake, a message with deep typological meaning. To speak - to announce one's thoughts, intentions or to announce through action - is to declare against danger.
When we speak, we are perhaps not aware of all the pointing that is going on and the related consequences. The words are the intention of a life, and perhaps some lives are like the placeholder that used to be art: holding space open for the incipience of yet-socially-unseen reality.