One of my least favourite Bible stories of all time is the one about the landowner who doled out talents to three of his servants before leaving on a trip. When he got back, he praised the two who had put their talents to work earning more and reamed out the poor frightened one who had buried his safely in the backyard.
This bothered me for two reasons. It seemed obvious to me that that landowner had a history of abusing his servants and I always felt sorry for that third guy. I thought he deserved an apology for past mistreatment at the very least.
The other thing I hated about this story was the use of the word talent. Everybody jumps on that word as the explanation for the meaning of this troublesome parable. If he’d given out drachmas, my life would have been a lot different. But no, the word translated as talent and my teachers, because they had no clue what the story really meant, decided to berate anyone with any abilities at all that they had to use those abilities, those talents (see how clever?) for the greater glory of God.
The idea was that you had been given this Great Gift. One not doled out to just anyone and so you owed it to God and the World to use it.
Every. Single. Day.
So I couldn’t just write short stories or draw pictures for my own amusement. No. I had to use my talents to Change the World. The athletes? Had to win Olympic gold. For Jesus.
I’m not knocking religion. And it’s not just those with a religious bent who believe that every freaking one of our abilities must be used for the betterment of the world. This notion runs through the whole of society. The idea that a talent not shared with everyone is a talent wasted. And even among the atheists, somehow, there is the feeling that that waste is a sin.
I say, enough!
The world is ticking along as the world always has. Disaster and mayhem alongside elegance and beauty. It will tick along this way long after we’re gone.
I have talents and so do you. And I’m happy to show you some of mine, and gaze admiringly at some of yours. But if you don’t really want to share, to expose your creation to anyone, that’s fine with me. If you want your silly drawings to bring a smile to your face alone, go ahead! Light the underside of that bushel basket! Bury your talent in the backyard! Be the third servant!
Create only because you want to and not because there are people out there, unknown and unnamed, who might, maybe need your spark of whatever to come into their life at just the right moment, but you have no way of knowing when that is, to cause some great, unknown event to possibly occur, without which, well, we won’t ever really know the outcome will we?
Enough with the pressure already. Enough with the guilt.
Go have a run, if you’re a runner, just for the sheer enjoyment of running, of feeling the ground under your feet and the air in your lungs. Make your heart pound for you and you alone.
Artists? Play around. Do something that you’ll never show to anyone, not because you’re ashamed of it but because you really, really like it and you want to keep it all to yourself.
Writers? Go nuts on those grocery lists. No one but you will ever see them. But if it gives you a smile on aisle six, won’t it be totally worth it?
And maybe if we all did more of that, those unnamed desperate people so in need of what we have might have the chance to figure it out for themselves.
What do you think?