So there was a comment on Making Light that got me thinking, for which I am very grateful. I posted something
in response and gratitude there, but there's more, and it probably fits better over here than it does over there just now.
I don't have all the connections figured out, but somehow issues of identity and particularly of competition as a means of affirming one's own identity and self-concept got hybridized with something I read last week about unforgiveable sin. It was in a footnote to another discussion involving "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit," and I followed some links around, like you do, and fetched up on the shore of a list which included "envy of a brother's spiritual good, i. e. of the increase of Divine grace in the world." That sure looked like it included making spiritual stuff a competition. And that cross-referenced with book envy, from another discussion, where instead of being glad that a wonderful new work has been added to the field and thus enriched us all, one is envious of the writer, sometimes poisonously so, and thrashes around in that envy publically sometimes. (Sometimes obviously, sometimes less so, and never to one's own heart's good, in my opinion.)
It all seems to circle around that portion of the firmament where the phrase "Comparisons are odious" is limned with stars. (Upon googling it, I find it attributed to John Lydgate, and given the form of "Odyous of olde been comparisonis, And of comparisonis engendyrd is haterede." Anybody with more and deeper information on source and context for that one is especially welcome to share it.) I know that comparison is -- or can be -- a kind of navigational tactic, like this: "I want to be a better ukulele player and I'm just starting out; I'll watch Kurt play; wow, he's so much better at that than I am, like by a really long shot; oh, cool, maybe I could learn that one thing he does there..." (This happened last weekend at WisCon, and resulted in Kurt explaining something about finger positions and chord changes that is likely to make learning easier and more satisfying for me -- thanks, Kurt!) Sometimes of comparisonis engendyrd is despair, if I compare and then decide (or fear) that I can never do whatever-it-is anything near that well and that therefore trying at all is worthless.
And all of this relates to people finding their own artistic style, and to the panel that Laurie, Mary Ann, Kate and I were on at WisCon.
So I guess these are notes toward further pondering thereof. You're all welcome to ponder with me here, if you like.