Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Heart of the Amateur

You can learn a lot about a society and its attitudes from the origins of certain words. Take villain, for example. In its original French and Latin it meant simply 'feudal serf' or 'farm hand'. Hmmm. . . working class=contemptible class, what a thoroughly barbaric analogy. It's nice to see we've moved past such prejudice in the 21st Century. Of course, it's always better to be rich, and being rich and famous is better still.

That will probably never happen if you're an amateur. Amateurs, by the modern definition, don't get paid for what they do. They haven't monetized (such an elegant word) their skill set, haven't declared themselves open for business (profess, the root of professional). Some, admittedly, can't get paid for what they do because it's nothing anyone would pay for, though the market has proven time and again that people will buy most anything given the right prodding, but there are others, and plenty of them, who don't even give money a thought. Painters. Photographers. Surfers (the only pastime I know where the majority of amateurs look on professionalism with a healthy dose of contempt). Basketball and Baseball players. Writers. They just do what they do, underneath, around, and through the gaps in the corporate structure supporting their professional counterparts, and if the whole damn thing came crashing to the ground they might sigh, might even be a little bit sad to see it go, but the painters would paint, photographers would look to capture fleeting moments of light, waves would be ridden, ballcourts and fields would still host fierce local rivalries, and writers would still struggle in futility to lay their strange visions onto the page. And why? The answer lies in the root of the word amateur: from the Latin amator, lover, from amare, to love. And if it is really true that the desire of money is the root of all evil, then the root of love can only be called the spark of the divine.