Disney-Pixar animated movie “Ratatouille” features a character named Anton Ego. A restaurant critic, he is one of several obstacles that lies in the way of Remmy realizing his dream of becoming a chef, a rather impossible dream since Remmy is a rat. The climax of the story comes when Ego is won over by Remmy’s creative culinary skills and writes a glowing review in the next day’s newspaper. His article makes some inciteful statements about creating vs. critiquing.
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations; the new needs friends.
Creating is more difficult than critiquing. Creating requires thinking and then doing something with those creative thougthts. That could mean writing down the notes to a melody that’s been swirling through your head, or the words to a poem. It could mean making up a new recipe and trying it out on someone. It could be proposing a new idea at work. Whatever the creative acts we engage in, we can be sure that as soon as it’s out there, it will be critiqued by someone else. And that’s okay; it goes with the territory. A saying attributed to Harry Truman puts it this way: “If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.”
But I still maintain, it’s easier to be a critic than a creator. That’s why there are more critics than creators. It’s easy. It’s easier to criticize music than compose it. It’s easier to criticize a meal than to cook it. It’s easier to find fault with a lesson than to teach one. It’s easier to critique an athlete than to be one. It’s easier to critique another person’s ideas than it is to have ideas of our own. Making nothing, doing nothing, and trying nothing new are all easy.
I’ve been on both sides of the creating-critiquing deal, and I can say from experience, it’s much easier to critique than create. What we need is more creators and less critics; more who are eager to shake hands with the new, as Ego calls it, instead of stiff-arming it. Now don’t misunderstand — I’m not saying ideas, actions, and creations should never be critiqued. I’m just saying it would be invigorating to see greater enthusiasm for the creating end of things than for the critiquing.
The constant voices of criticism in our society are wearisome. It’s everywhere, even in the church. Perhaps we need to be reminded that there is no spiritual gift of criticism, and neither is it the fruit of the Spirit.
I like Ego’s last statement: “the new needs friends.” I want to become a better friend of the new by curtailing the critiquing and encouraging the creative.