Thursday, December 28, 2023

The American Tournament of Achievement

 December 28, 2023

   Third day of isolation. Cancelled a massage and slept in this morning. Seems rather ludicrous that I went to so much trouble to avoid getting Covid by getting all the vaccines, but I take some comfort in the notion that it could have been much worse. I have a neighbor who is on his third bout with Covid and he is visited by Mayo doctors multiple times a day. Yes, a day!

"High Desert Spectrum" By Ed Mell

   Speaking of achieving accolades in art. . .

The American Tournament of Achievement

   I read with much interest, a review of Adam Gopnik's new book, The Real Work, in The Atlantic which examines what Gopnik calls “mastery,” and that is "the effort needed to achieve such proficiency (to completely learn the gestures, the vocabularies, until they become nearly second nature) and that learning this skill is generally undervalued. What is championed instead is the lesser goal he distinguishes as 'achievement,' the evanescent act of meeting some external measurement of success in order to move ahead: the SAT score, the grade-point average, the performance review that unlocks the promotion to a higher salary. Gopnik, a longtime New Yorker critic, isn’t the first author to emerge victorious from the American tournament of achievement only to discern its spiritual emptiness. But his contribution to an antidote feels original, and mercifully within reach. We need to refamiliarize ourselves, he thinks, with the profound and enlarging experience of truly mastering things, or at least attempting to do so."

   And, to put a fine point on it, not to get so hung up on the achievement aspect, as in, "I'll be happy when I win the Pultizer Prize for my scratchboards."

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:

"Vaquero Headed Home"

   Or, to pathetically chase after an achievement prize by name dropping.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:

"Vaquero de Pulitzer"

   I know. So high school. But if you think I am immune to that critical voice in my head, you would be mistaken.

"You Are So Pathetic, It's Not Even Funny."

   This is a typical statement my inner voice is fond of saying to me. So, what is the best thing you can say to your inner voice that is so negative all the time? Try this on:

"I forgive you this time."


   Ha. This Seneca line always makes me laugh and in the end, lightens my negatrons up a tad. Also, if you are hung up on achievement like some of us are, check this out.

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they dreamed of so that they can see that it’s not the answer.”

—Jim Carrey

   Or, this is even better.

"The funny thing about having all this so-called success is that behind it is a certain horrible emptiness."
—Sam Shepard

   In short, enjoy the process, try to master it, let the chips fall where they may. Have fun. The ancients are on our side.

Ducky Davis:
"Pulitzer? I'd Rather Have A Wurlitzer!"


  1. Nice stuff Bob, from a cartoonist who's also a Wild West fanatic!

    I just watched you talk about Bad Bladder Allen on the True Grit DVD, bu the way!

  2. Anonymous3:10 PM

    Get well quick, Bob, and best wishes for a healthy and productive 2024!

    Daryl - one of your friends Out Wickenburg Way

  3. Anonymous2:50 PM

    Enjoy your magazine just got the latest issue here filled for a long time thank you and keep up the good work


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