“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.”
Anton Egon – Ratatouille
I love Egon’s monologue at the end of Pixar’s Ratatouille. It’s something I meditate on often… especially when I consider my role as a music reviewer and blogger.
I have and will continue to quote this part in particular when I consider what I do and how it can affect artists:
“…But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”
The thing is… I think it affects all areas of our lives. Don’t get me wrong… some criticism can be constructive if given humbly and received graciously… but most criticism is destructive… it tears down rather than builds up.
It is easier to destroy than to create. It’s easier to be a critic than a creator.. it’s easier to let the cynicism win.
But as digital disciples we are not about easy… we are people of the narrow way… the road less travelled.
We are or should be about creation rather than destruction… about building up rather than tearing down. We are or should be known as encouragers rather than discouragers… friends of the new as well as the old.
We should be known more for what we are *for* rather than what we are against. We should seek to exhort and encourage the best not bring out the worst… as Philippians 4:8 (The Message) says:
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
We should seek out the best in everything and *everyone* we encounter… not look for the lowest or seek to bring out the lowest… but expect and only accept the best.
The world needs less cynicism. We need to be an example of an alternative… a credible alternative grounded in hope rather than fear… one that is grounded in the second chance.
It is as easy to write off a person as it is to write off an idea. To destroy a person by seeing the worst in them. It’s hard to see the best in some people… the Ned on the street in Glasgow, for example, with expensive Nike Air Max 95’s on his feet and a cup in his hand looking for spare change. It’s way too easy to tear him down… to write him off. It’s a 1000 times harder to try and build him up… but that is what we are called to.
It’s just as hard to love our enemies by seeking to actively build them up rather than trying to tear them down after they have ripped into us. It’s not enough to *not respond*… we need to respond positively… to seek the best in them even when they do not deserve it.
We risk very little by seeking the worst and risk way too much by seeking the best… but this risk is what we are called to take. We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves… a love that is dangerous… a risky love… a life-changing love. It is the love we are commanded to have and express… and we do it… we love like this… because He first loved us. Jesus didn’t write us off… He saw the best in us when even we couldn’t.
If He can see the best in us… then surely we should do the same with others?
Are we are people of the narrow way? Is this not our road?