Oftentimes I think we have it all wrong. We continually strive to be better than others, whether it’s in business, politics, sports, or even the arts. We set the finish line as some unattainable, imaginary goal that exists only in the ego. It’s a race that will go on forever with the majority of our lives’ being spent pushing, pulling, clawing, grasping, and trying to somehow reach the pinnacle of this ever growing pile of excrement that has been deposited all around us. And all this effort just to be able to breathe. Nothing more. The race never stops. There’s no space or time for imagination. The individual must sacrifice himself in order to feed the machine. Sound depressing? Well, lucky for everyone, the race isn’t mandatory. We can simply resign. We can bow out gracefully and just go home. Home to our family, home to our friends, and most importantly, home to ourselves. But what then would we have to strive for? Where is the reward in resigning? Well for starters, I don’t think there will ever be much reward in endlessly reaching for the unattainable. And resigning from the race doesn’t mean quitting your job and moving out to wilderness to live off the land. I’m talking about resigning from the constant worry of how we stack up to others. To cease thoughts of becoming superior to our neighbors, in exchange for being the best You than you can be. How many of us can say that we are the best versions of ourselves? I know I can’t. But what if that is what we strove for? What would happen if we took off the war paint, stopped looking all around us, and simply looked within?
I don’t know much about James Anthony Johnson other than that he often can be heard picking his guitar and singing country and bluegrass in front of the South Congress Cafe’. When I asked him if I could take his picture, he humbly said ok and pointed me to a flyer tacked to the telephone pole which depicted a much more clean shaven version of himself and billed his upcoming performance at Austin coffee house, Strange Brew. I listened to a few songs. He played with passion. His fingerpicking was flawless. He was good. No, he was better than good. He offered no pretenses from underneath his mirrored aviators. He asked for nothing but he gave it his all. He appeared to have bowed out of the race long ago. He could probably be famous if he wanted to be. He probably doesn’t want to be famous. He probably doesn’t want to do anything other than be James Anthony Johnson. And that’s ok.