March 2012

The Talent Within Us All


My husband and I recently changed our TV service to a package that includes hundreds of stations, vastly more than we would ever watch. Nevertheless curious about them, I scanned them all and discovered dozens of talent competitions. These were not just for entertainment; they were contests wherein there would be one winner and everyone else would be a loser.

Two ideas immediately struck me: Firstly, there are many immensely talented people around. Secondly, most of them were going to lose.

OK, I understand that someone-somewhere needs to decide what to put on the air, so judging is intrinsic to broadcasting. And the “ losers” might benefit from the exposure gained from being on the program in the first place. On the other hand, who can possibly say who is the most talented? I surely wouldn’t want to be in that position.

In times past, the word “talent” was used for money, too. Perhaps the best-known instance is the Bible’s Parable of the Talents in which “talents” as currency was both a reward and a means for investment. Bringing this to modern times, what if we valued our collective wealth as the sum total of everyone’s talents? What if we sought to increase our wealth by recognizing and developing those talents?

Abdul-Baha, referring to our Creator, wrote “Thou hast provided for all, conferrest life upon all, hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties.” Since everyone has talents, it is important to see these as more than performance arts. Some people have a talent for cooking, cleaning, organizing, gardening, comforting others, fixing things — well, just about anything one can think of.

Recognizing the value of bringing out the innate capacities of all people, the Baha’i Writings encourage social and cultural organizations to “capitalize the talents of all the members of the group and keep them busy in some form of active participation”. The scope of this vision is so large that elsewhere it is written that the moral character of civilization itself depends on people using both their brains and their talents.

In the future we can benefit from embracing diversity and recognizing the range of talents and insights which evolved over time and in different places. Indeed, to accept the oneness of humanity is to welcome the variety of inherent capacities and talents. Rather than seeking uniformity, we will cherish a wide range of experiences, cultures and viewpoints, inasmuch as they contribute to the human family's progress and well-being.

It seems to me that we have a duty to provide an opportunity for all people to develop their talents and channel them in a constructive way –linking them to professions, hobbies and other such fruitful endeavours. I love being entertained as much as anyone else — music, theatre, film, arts, pop culture — and I may watch some of those talent competitions on TV. Beyond that, I want to appreciate the talents in everyone without being tempted to evaluate or judge. If no one needs to lose then surely we all gain.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2012