Tonight, I would like to share a tale.
It's about the Artist. A painter, in fact.
The method of the Artist was of an atypical style. He was an impressionist.
The Artist was good. Good enough, in fact, that his productions earned him a living and enough acclaim that his admirers vouched for him in such a way so as to shed light on his exhibitions.
He was mildly popular; respected among many of his peers.
His success, however, was only due slightly to borne artistic talent.
The Artist's most striking trait was not his natural ability to elegantly place paint to paper, but his willingness to sacrifice all things but those that benefited his craft.
The Artist, though, was not the best. But with his steadfast commitment to excellence, he was... close.
Indeed, there existed a recognized group of extraordinary impressionist painters. This was a group that the Artist was not a member, though he yearned so very deeply to be.
It became such that, in time, membership in this group was not a goal of the Artist's, but his only goal.
As his career progressed, his every work of art became an application to join that select group.
The group's exclusivity so fully appealed to the Artist.
These impressionists were the best of the best. And the Artist wished -- nay, worked vigorously to join their respected ranks.
The opportunity for which the Artist passionately chased finally presented itself.
He was offered an opportunity to join the select group of impressionists. If only he should pass a test; a crucible of sorts, conjured by the esteemed artists themselves.
The Artist was challenged to produce an excellent painting. But not any painting. This coveted entrance exam, offered to but a select few, required the Artist to paint a magnificent and realistic portrait.
Something the Artist, an impressionist to his very bone, had never attempted, let alone achieved.
But the prize was worth the struggle.
The Artist began. Though, the task to him seemed so very daunting.
He was creating what he assumed then to be his most important work. A life's worth of dedication came down to this painting. A portrait.
And it was an epic endeavor. Every stroke of the brush took thought and effort of such a level the Artist had never previously exerted.
The very dream that had consumed the Artist could be made reality if only he finished this project with the marvelous precision he had completed all of his works.
So the Artist toiled away.
His eye on the goal, the fullness of the Artist's heart was soaked with every dab of paint.
The Artist, never a fair judge of his own work, was ignorant to his current product's quality.
And he was offered no critique by the group of exquisite artists he wished to join. Their review was promised at the artwork's final delivery.
But, all along, this was a struggle. Despite his years of preparation, never had the Artist been challenged so.
The stakes had never been so great.
This was a project that represented the Artist's heart, soul, and the breadth of his lifetime's work. And it was almost complete.
Catching his breath, the Artist took a step back.
...his entire world collapsed.
The Artist entered a dark place.
"This is no good..." he mumbled.
The Artist glanced at his work and he was reminded of every failed attempt to paint previously. How many canvases had he ripped up in disgust??
How many times had his talent trailed his ambition?
Was it now?
Besides. What the hell was he doing? He was no portrait painter.
It became clear to the Artist. This was an impossible task.
"No wonder their company is so exclusive," the Artist pondered aloud, his disappointment palpable.
Suddenly, the Artist's world was awash in self-doubt. And, inside, the Artist was raging with anger at his own inability.
He need not be told. He failed.
Frustration boiled over.
The Artist ripped the paper from easel. Violently, he tore his progress to shreds.
Tears rolled from his eyes. Saline clouded his vision. Self-hate overtook his emotion.
Of all of life's many seconds, the Artist's dream was ruined the very second he quit in the task set before him.
And so escaped the Artist's opportunity at attaining the one thing he truly desired.
Right through his fingertips.
The Artist stepped away from his craft.
And those who had done the most to encourage his passion pined vigorously for the Artist to return to his love. But he spat in the faces of those that most courageously opened doors on his behalf.
Producing no art, he gained a day's wage from pragmatic labor, but far from his previous passion.
Leaving art brought with it serious consequence for the Artist.
Consequence, however, offered no pain as severe as returning to art.
Because, truly, no punishment was as cruel as the depth of the Artist's disappointment.
A glimpse of an easel produced anger.
The mere thought of the brush showered the Artist in sadness.
That shower consisting of a downpour of drops representing his own failure.
The Artist had quit. On his dreams. On his potential.
And, most importantly: On his self.
Every thought of art reminded him of that.
He could never go back.
To do so would cause the Artist paralyzing hate.
Hate. For himself.
The Artist never painted again.