Infinite Gist…

I was reminded over the weekend about some fantastic advice I saw when scanning through a list of suggestions made by music industry legend David Foster back in 2010 when he was accepting an award from publishing entity BMI.

Now first, to be very clear here, I’m talking about a producer and songwriter whose list of associated acts that he’s worked with is so extensive that it would probably merit its own Table of Contents, and his name is David Walter Foster.  I am not making reference in this post, to the brilliant writer — the late, much loved, and much missed — David Foster Wallace…although if you’ve never checked out the latter’s work, especially his magnificent novel, Infinite Jest, you’re missing out on what I consider to be some of the greatest writing I’ve ever favored my brain with in its day…

David Foster Wallace -- we're not discussing him here, but we should discuss him soon...he and his work are eminently discussable!!
David Foster Wallace — we’re not discussing him here, but we should discuss him soon…he and his work are eminently discussable!!

But back to David Foster…  So in 2010, he was honored with BMI’s Icon Award, and on that occasion, he gave an acceptance speech that included sage counsel on how to maximize your success as a songwriter.  One of the tips he offered was this: Be genuinely happy for someone else’s success.

I find myself trying to adopt this maxim in my life now, and not just in terms of songwriting (I do write and record my own original songs, but that’s not where I’m going with this post), but in terms of virtually everything.  I think this is outstanding advice when applied just toward being a finer human in general.

David Foster lays down a bit of Truth at the keyboard (also, wow, guys with "David Foster" in their names seem to have really excellent hair...)...
David Foster lays down a bit of Truth at the keyboard (also, wow, guys with “David Foster” in their names seem to have really excellent hair…)…

Here’s the thing: I’ve come to believe that as beings that manifest in a physical world, which is kind of by definition a world with strict limits built right into it, we’ve become used to thinking of resources mostly in terms of physical resources…and here on This Island Earth, such resources are pretty much finite in nature.  That is…they’re exhaustible.  Consider for a moment resources such as natural gas, gemstones, clean water, fertile land: the more of such things that are claimed by some people, the less of them that’s left for others.  That’s how “finite” works.

When it comes to physical resources, it's totally possible to drain the tank...
When it comes to physical resources, it’s totally possible to drain the tank…

But then I feel that we’re so used to focusing on the physical, that we apply the same kind of thinking to our consideration of intangible resources.  Now think for a second about such concepts as…love…luck…abundance…success, joy, prosperity, serenity, acclaim, progress…  These things aren’t actually finite — they don’t exist in pools in the ground that can be permanently sucked dry, and they don’t make up some kind of great pie that can be carved into a fixed number of slices, divvied up among first-comers, and forever depleted — as far as I can tell, these resources are infinite.  If someone else happens to find romance, or fortune, or pleasure, it doesn’t at all mean that there are now necessarily less of these things left in the world for you, me, and everybody else who didn’t happen to catch that particular brass ring this time around — there’s still as much possibility for all of us to achieve these things for ourselves as there ever was.  In fact, someone could even make the case that there’s more such possibility, as maybe the Universe wants us to be happy, and maybe it learns from each example how to deliver said happiness…

And if this is all really the case…then why would we ever feel resentment or jealousy toward someone else for achieving such positivity?  And yet we seem to do just that, and pretty frequently.

What is it with us and the sour grapes so often...?
What is it with us and the sour grapes so often…?

So my advice for the day is to follow David Foster’s advice from that speech he gave back in 2010: Be genuinely happy for someone else’s success.  I believe this goes beyond a neutral stance of, “Hey, look, I’m at least not being sour grape-y about someone else’s good fortune,” and represents a journey into the actively positive.  Put another way, actively positive is preferable, and more beneficial for us in terms of our own well-being, than is a simple lack of negative.  So that’s the suggestion: try being a tiny bit celebratory about someone else’s good fortune, and not even because it might yield up some kind of metaphysical reward for you in turn (although I do believe that it might)…but instead, just try it out solely in order to rejoice at the fact that somewhere in the world, there’s a little wellspring of joy flowing into existence, and we can never have too much of that particular resource…

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