Taking A Moment to Appreciate A Man Finding His Greatness
OK, Jonah Goldberg at The Corner linked to this performance by a “bloke” named Paul Potts on the UK’s “Britain’s Got Talent” reality TV show. Usually I don’t get into that stuff (which is why I’m probably a little late to this story), but I followed the link. Before reading on, I’d recommend you do the same. Here it is again.
For some reason, even though Goldberg had kind of prepped me for something cool or big, I was still blindsided by the performance and, well, touched. I couldn’t really explain why. My immediate thought was that it was probably because, like most people, I’m a sucker for the underdog story. And Potts was certainly an underdog going in.
Watching the video, you can see the doubt on the judges faces when he says he’s going to sing opera. The lead in to his performance shows him to be very insecure. We’ve seen this setup before, right? The music starts and the audience awaits for what seems the inevitable crash and burn.
And then he starts to sing.
Tingles up the spine and a lump in the throat.
Even after seeing the judges and crowds reaction and hearing Simon Cowell saying that Paul Potts was exactly the type of talent he had hoped he’d find when he’d conceived of the show, I still couldn’t quite grasp why Potts’ performance struck me so.
Then I read this email that Goldberg received today, by somebody was able to put it into words much better than I.
Jonah – I came into work this morning, ran through my email, signed payroll, ran out to rake a couple of employees over the coals, went back to the office, pulled up NRO, and clicked on the Corner. That’s when I ran across your post about Paul Potts. The video came up and there’s this dumpy guy with bad teeth. Then he started to sing. Now, I’m not an overly emotional person, but halfway through I realized I was crying. Haven’t done anything like that in many, many years, and I wondered, as I dried my eyes, how in the world his singing could have caused such a strong reaction in me. The video has been on a loop in my head ever since, and I think I’m ready to make a guess.
His expression before he begins to sing is that of a man resigned to disappointment. Even when he smiles, his eyes convey a profound sadness. He has been a nobody all his life. He, and perhaps only he, knows he has greatness inside of him, but he is obviously a humble man, massively insecure, afraid of rejection, unsure of himself outside the cocoon of anonymity. But you get the feeling he also knows that this may be the one chance he gets to escape the cocoon, and as he begins to sing, you can see him fighting down his fear. I think that is the wellspring of the emotion that pervades his performance. He is fighting against a life of obscurity. By the song’s end, what was an average Joe has stepped up, beaten back his fear, and broken through. In those few seconds, he put the void behind him, and his life will probably be changed forever because he called up the courage at that moment to show what he was really made of. We saw greatness, long denied, finally being born.
It was one of the most heroic things I’ve seen in a long time. My deepest thanks to you for posting it. Truly inspirational. –
And now you all know that I’m a freaking ol’ softy.
Oh, incidentally, Potts has made the finals—here’s the performance. Of course, he’s already won, but I think he’ll actually win this thing, too.