“Supreme Adequacy”

“BE ADEQUATE,” all in capital letters, were the words with which Lindsay Lohan ended her meandering tribute to director Robert Altman after his recent death. 

The e-mail, and indeed Ms. Lohan’s entire existence, gets attention because she is part of a celebrity cohort that would make a nun pine for the comforting rectitude of the Rat Pack — booze, broads, battered paparazzi and all. But I always feel a little sad for Lohan. Unlike Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Nicole Richie and their interchangeable sleazy parasite boyfriends, she had talent.  Because I was raising children during the 90s, I saw Lohan’s version of “The Parent Trap” a time or two.  She was 11 when she made it and did a fine job.  But nowadays, when Lindsay Lohan contemplates adequacy, she is looking up at an ideal that is fading away.

Jon Weisman found an interesting way to talk about “adequacy” the other day, in this post on his great blog, Dodger Thoughts.  About the Dodgers signing Luis Gonzalez to play left field next season, Jon said he is “not excited.” Gonzalez was once an excellent player, but his skills are in decline.  But then Jon added:

At the same time, I am very open to the idea that with superstar talent at a clear premium, there may be something to the idea of trying to dominate with depth, with supreme adequacy.

I like that idea.  Sometimes, “supreme adequacy” is a high enough goal for an organization — a baseball team, or anything else.   Things like genius or “superstar talent” can’t be planned for; they are four-leaf clovers.  Truly great ideas — they’re rare. But you can assemble a team where everyone is adequate.  Not mediocre: Adequate.  Everyone knows their roles and performs their roles.  The roles are clearly delineated.  To be adequate is not easy, but it’s achievable. It’s not a mystery. 

adequate.jpgGreatness is a mystery. There is nothing more awesome to me than observing a person who is extraordinary at … really just about anything.  But sometimes, people who think they’re special, aren’t.  And their striving to be seen as great becomes an obnoxious drama of self-delusion. 

Even the great have to master “supreme adequacy” first.  I think people used to know that, before celebrity became a goal in itself.  Maybe Altman’s death disclosed this truth to the befogged Ms. Lohan, and her subconscious is trying to point her back in the right direction. 

Have you heard the call to be supremely adequate?

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