The Thought for the Day – Gore Vidal

Atossa was never more splendid than when she was improvising towards some great end.  – Gore Vidal, Creation


Atossa (550 BC-475 BC) was the wife of King Darius the Great of Persia. She was strong-willed, persistent, patient and cunning traits which, along with descendancy from Cyrus the Great, helped her get her son Xerxes the throne after Darius died even though Darius had an older son by another wife. History also noted she had a bleeding lump in one of her breasts, which was eventually removed by a Greek slave.

Life does not always follow a straight or certain path. We might want it to, of course, but in every life, even those that might seem to be fairly well planned out, the straightest course runs into curves, bumps, sharp turns and even switchbacks. To use a football analogy, life sometimes requires some broken field running.

We must be ready for life’s curves. We can’t avoid them and we can’t run from them. We must adapt, and take advantage of the circumstances change affords us.

Our life itself should be our great end and we must be prepared to improvise along the way. We may chase something for many years only to come one day to the end of our interest. Or something may keep our interest over many years, the target unchanging. We’ve had both happen to us. When we were younger we wanted to be a radio announcer. We did it for a few years before finding ourselves laid off and out of the business. We woke up the next morning no longer interested in radio, which surprised us. Then we started writing and we have yet to stop, with many more things we feel must be said before our mind starts to betray us in a couple-three decades.

…when she was improvising towards some great end.

What great end are you improvising for? Be prepared to be flexible. Now, the target we are aiming for should not change. The target comes from deep inside us after all and to change it will not do you or me or anybody else any good.

But how we get there does change and there will certainly be times when we find ourselves improvising. It’s the way the world is built. Embrace it. Improvising keeps your mind alert and is often the foundation of innovation. The arrival at many great ends is often heralded by the trumpets of improvisation.  

The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.

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