It takes but a single person. Next thing your stickman sketch is profound, your missing cat’s a celebrity and your last name’s being used in literary circles. Most people wish at some point in their life to ‘make it’. What they mean, is that they are waiting patiently to be discovered. It’s one, wonderful thing to have talent. With it, you can complete tasks with easy pleasure and float about in the knowledge that you are innately brilliant. “Making it” is different. Making it is about being recognized.
I had an incredible English teacher at school. He made words do things that they don’t do when you read them by yourself. He just had this unbounded, raw love of language and literature and transmitted it with a humour and tenderness that inspired. And then it occurred to me. He was more brilliant than his subject.
It came in a flash and I was reminded of my introduction, in Junior Cert. History to the Renaissance and the concept of a patron of the arts. It’s not the artist or the piece of art that has that certain je ne sais quoi – it’s the guy that encounters it and shivers. It’s in the way he says to his friends: “You HAVE to read this line”, “Wow! Look at that single, tiny bit of blue in the top left-hand corner” and “Oh my God the sustained violin in the bridge passage makes me cry”.
Some call it a response to beauty. I call it a beautiful response. There is an immense selflessness in patronage of the arts that goes oft unnoticed – we buy the picture, admire the artist and ignore whoever encouraged it to be framed. The pretentious and the sublime are two such antagonistic concepts that a university education must necessarily merge them into common ground. In general if you’ve become conscious of the latter you’re more likely to practice discourse than to discuss practically.
It’s not enough to be told that you are unique. As the t-shirts say, so is everybody else. Making it is when somebody reveals to the world why you are more distinctive than most. It’s when people begin to argue about your influences and your direction. It’s when you become an object. It’s when you make money.
Real patronage runs outside of literary circles and arty cliques. It’s as much inside each one of us as is the emerging artist. It’s in the sublime quotidian: it’s taking a walk. It’s the chemistry of a smile. It’s when you make eye contact with a stranger on the luas and realize that you are not alone. It’s receiving a hand-made card from the least artistic person you know. It’s when the sky is that beautiful pale blue and the sun blinds you and you’re with somebody you love. It’s when you have good enough friends to help you put up missing cat posters.