The Duality of Brilliance

I don’t want to talk about tortured genius, about how pain and struggle can create amazing artwork and innovation.  I want to talk about the idea of amazing artwork, and writing, and how it makes me feel, because my feelings are split when it comes to genius works.

When I find something that I think is brilliant (usually that of someone who at least age-wise is my contemporary), it brings about two feelings, the first it puts me in a state of awe, I’m a fan, and then there is the secondary feeling of inadequacy.  Perhaps this is reasonable, or normal, but I listen to or watch a Bo Burnham special, and there is that first wave of “holy shit, he is an absolute genius” which mixes with entertainment and joy, and then if he gets into particularly brilliant and dynamic word play, I think “I will never write anything this smart, and he did this at like 20…”  I’m six years older than Bo Burnham, so it doesn’t have the same disconnect of when I listen to George Carlin.  Also, I’m at least 10 years older than Burnham was on his first special/album, but Carlin’s first big hit CD’s were at about 35 years old.  So in my head I can lie to myself and think ‘I still have 2 years,’ even though obviously I’ll never be near as smart as George Carlin either.

It’s not just Bo Burnham, when I watched Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, I think “wow, he wrote and directed most of this, this is brilliant filmmaking,” and again, Ansari is only a year and a half older than me.  Will I be able to do anything as good as Master of None in my lifetime? Very probably no.  Will I be able to do anything even close in the next year and a half?  Definitely fucking not.

Don’t get me wrong, these guys are brilliant, and I am so grateful that I get to live in a time when I can enjoy their art.  Bo Burnham’s “God’s Perspective,” influenced the way I look at religion in a very real way, and it is some of the best philosophy I have been able to take into my life.  Master of None’s episode “Parents,” gave me a perspective of immigrants and first generation Americans that I would never have gained otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I need these guys to be more than I can ever be, but as someone trying to be a writer (and someone who wanted for a very long time wanted to be a filmmaker and a stand-up comedian) it is incredibly frustrating when I see people regardless of how deserving and hardworking they are, be so fucking good at what they do.