Brain Food #400

Never touch your idols

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Today is yet another Brain Food milestone. When I started Brain Food, I did so without expectations. It was a commitment I had made with myself, and one that I decided to continue to be in for as long as it offered me some form of meaning and satisfaction.

Brain Food often consists of the thoughts, words and creations of people I admire. But what they (and I) share with the world is always open to critique. How can you ever trust anything someone said? And what makes it worthwhile?

So, a safe territory would be to detach the work from the maker. But, by detaching the work from the maker, does it not lose some of its power? After all, don’t we admire the people we want to identify with?

When you get too close to what you put on a pedestal, there is always the risk of disillusionment:

“The denigration of those we love always detaches us from them in some degree. Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.”

―  Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Like a child recognising their parents’ flaws for the first time, or encountering the insecurities of an otherwise ideal lover, the critique of an idol can create a form of detachment and instability. Eventually, we can choose to be left alone with the work itself, and how we let it touch us. Or we accept the whole, while the pedestal slowly vanishes. Neither option is wrong.

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