One blog to rule them all
My wife and I have been rewatching The Newsroom for the umpteenth time, and every time I watch it I'm reminded all over again why Aaron Sorkin is such an extraordinary writer. While it's usually Episode 4 of the first season that gives me chills and fits of jealousy over how good it is, this time I was really struck by the final episode of the first season with the recurring theme of "the greater fool."
This YouTube clip compilation does a great job of distilling the theme of the episode down into just a few minutes and key scenes:
As Sloan Sabbith (played by Olivia Munn) says in that clip, "Most people spend their lives trying not to be the greater fool" and then, "The greater fool is somebody with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools."
Maybe it's the current moment we find ourselves in, maybe it's that I'm a relatively new father and am learning how to deal with a completely different way of prioritizing things in my life now, but rewatching this episode really made me realize how long I've tried to avoid being the greater fool. Self-consciousness, perfectionism, fear of failure, social anxiety ... whatever you want to call it, I've often chosen passivity over action because I'm too afraid of looking like a fool. Or at least attempting to not be the biggest fool in the room.
What I've been reflecting on since watching this episode is just how hard it is to do something remarkable when you're playing it safe. As someone who wants to tell impactful stories and leave a mark on the world, it made me realize how long I've been spending not actually attempting to achieve that for fear of coming up short. And I'm not sure that, at the end of my life, I want my legacy to just be, "Yep, he definitely played it safe and made sure he wasn't the biggest idiot in the room."
I've also been watching the new docuseries Dear... on Apple TV+ and the episode on Lin-Manuel Miranda recounted a story I'd forgotten about his early years. In 2008, he was just coming off the success of his first Broadway musical, the Tony-winning In The Heights. In 2009, he was invited to perform at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. The expectation was that he would perform one of his hip-hop inspired Tony-winning numbers from In The Heights but, instead, he decided to perform a new piece he had been working on, inspired by a biography of one of America's founding fathers that he read while on vacation. The piece he performed was "My Shot," which ultimately became one of the standout songs from the record-breaking musical phenomenon Hamilton. And I can't stop thinking about what a bold swing Miranda took. He got invited to perform in front of the President of the United States alongside the country's most talented poets and musicians, and rather than performing a guaranteed crowd-pleasing surefire hit from his current award-winning work running on Broadway, he decided instead to perform something he was still workshopping.
I don't know if this speaks to anyone else, or if anyone else needs to hear it right now, but I'm really weighing the pros and cons of spending one's time and energy focused on not looking like an idiot rather than taking a big swing at things, even if it doesn't always work out and you sometimes fall flat.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe I want to try being a greater fool for a while.