Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Liberating the Mediocre to Enjoy the Arts

Originally posted on December 9, 2010

One of my missions is to foster the liberation of the mediocre, which refers to the majority of the population. Most people are not all that great when it comes to singing or dancing or making music or doing drama or whatever—but these are important vehicles for self-expression, self-discovery, and having fun. It is a sin to inhibit such important channels. Rather, we should learn to open them more. I heard that there’s a certain tribe in Australia or somewhere who believe that the purpose of humanity is to be a vehicle through which the gods can enjoy the feeling of singing and dancing. Interesting.

The problem is that the Arts have become (1) overly oriented to performance for an audience; and (2) so expert that people would pay money to watch or hear them perform. This is okay for those who are gifted enough and have enough stamina to engage in the fierce competition for the consumer’s dollar. (In the olden days it would have been a quarter, or maybe only a nickel.)

One of my favorite songs is called “Sing!” and it has a line, “Don’t matter if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear; just sing, sing a song.” It communicates the vitality that comes with allowing melody to merge with your breath and voice. Consider that birds really enjoy the aesthetics of creating or channeling a lovely melody in their singing! (Sometimes I imagine that one of my totem animals is the mockingbird, mimus polyglottus, as they have so much fun improvising melodically, as do I.) Let’s consider that singing, even at a mediocre level, feels good and is good for the soul!

The point is that I want to help restore singing and dancing and drumming and poetry and other things as the heritage of being human and not just for those who can do it well. There’s an additional benefit for those who are talented and want to extend their talent—that’s fine, and that’s what much—most!—of the arts is about. But there needs to be a re-balancing so that the arts is also about what these channels of self-expression and communion can be for all of us.

There are some folks who don’t like to sing—not just out of being intimidated, but more that they just don’t enjoy it; others feel this way for dancing or other modalities. In those cases, let it be. I don’t want to do an “ought” for everyone, but rather I do want to liberate and validate the fun of singing and dancing for those who are far from the performer-for-a-paying-audience level.

In closing, I’m suggesting we resist the “oppression of innocence” that comes with the over-valuation of performance-level talent. This has been intensified also by the mass media, which substitutes vicarious experience for the enjoyment of doing. I am protesting against the unspoken attitude that if you’re not good enough to be great, you’re not good enough, period. I also want to generate more play for the enjoyment of play, and reduce the severe over-emphasis on competition in all sorts of other activities, from sports to cooking. Mediocre Liberation!

One Response to “Liberating the Mediocre to Enjoy the Arts”

  • Adam,
    LOVE this article. First, I often say, “One great thing about kids is they teach you mediocre is okay.”
    And with the arts and music – all the better. In my “Rock the House” programs I open venues for people to move, dance, do-si-do, holler, etc. to music. I think it is wonderfully therapeutic and bonding.
    Thank you for this great article –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *