You work if you love it. Don’t ask for recognition. If it comes, take it easily; if it does not come, do not think about it. Your fulfillment should be in the work itself. And if everybody learns this simple art of loving his work, whatever it is, enjoying it without asking for any recognition, we would have a more beautiful and celebrating world. As it is, the world has trapped you in a miserable pattern: What you are doing is not good because you love it, because you do it perfectly, but because the world recognizes it, rewards it, gives you gold medals, Nobel prizes.
They have taken away the whole intrinsic value of creativity and destroyed millions of people – because you cannot give millions of people Nobel prizes. And they have created the desire for recognition in everybody, so nobody can work peacefully, silently, enjoying whatever he is doing. And life consists of small things. For those small things there are not rewards, not titles given by the governments, not honorary degrees given by the universities.
One of the great poets of the twentieth century, Rabindranath Tagore, lived in Bengal, India. He had published his poetry, his novels, in Bengali – but no recognition came to him. Then he translated a small book, Gitanjali, “Offering of Songs” into English. And he was aware that the original has a beauty which the translation does not have and cannot have – because these two languages, Bengali and English, have different structures, different ways of expression.
Bengali is very sweet. Even if you fight, it seems you are engaged in a nice conversation. It is very musical; each word is musical. That quality is not in English, and cannot be brought to it; it has different qualities. But somehow he managed to translate it, and the translation – which is a poor thing compared to the original – received the Nobel prize. Then suddenly the whole of India became aware…the book had been available in Bengali, in other Indian languages for years and nobody had taken any note of it.
Every university wanted to give him a DLitt. Calcutta, where he lived, was the first university, obviously, to offer him an honorary degree. He refused. He said, “You are not giving a degree to me; you are not giving recognition to my work, you are giving recognition to the Nobel prize, because the book has been here in a far more beautiful way, and nobody has bothered even to write an appraisal.”
He refused to take any DLitts. He said, “It is insulting to me.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the great novelists, and a man of tremendous insight into human psychology, refused the Nobel prize. He said, “I have received enough reward while I was creating my work. A Nobel prize cannot add anything to it – on the contrary, it pulls me down. It is good for amateurs who are in search of recognition; I am old enough, and I have enjoyed enough. I have loved whatever I have done. It was its own reward, and I don’t want any other reward, because nothing can be better than that which I have already received.” And he was right. But the right people are so few in the world, and the world is full of wrong people living in traps.