“When my mother cooked us pasta for dinner, she spent hours, sometimes the whole day, making sure the sauce and the vegetables or meats were perfect, but never once made her own pasta from scratch, ‘because it took too much time.’ I never understood this about her, until she finally explained it to me one day. ‘It’s the sauce that has to be perfect,’ she said. ‘It’s the pasta’s job to get the sauce to your mouth. In a perfect world the pasta would be perfect too, but it’s not a perfect world, so all the pasta has to do is be not terrible.’ To me, the music is the sauce, and opera is the pasta that gets the sauce to your mouth.”
I therefore give you my last boon: You will grow up happy, but a little poor. This will teach you the value of wealth. I will surround you with great teachers. They will be far more complex, far more interesting, and above all far sadder, than you will ever be. You will be boring compared to them, John Mallory, but their stories will inevitably end, and yours will go on. You will be just down-on-your-luck enough, just unremarkable enough, and just white enough, to grow up with enough self-confidence to achieve literally any crazy idea you come up with.
John Mallory's Uncle Jim was an ordinary man. He did not have superhuman strength or superhuman speed, he could not read minds, or shoot laser beams from his eyes, or control the weather, or commune with animals. However, lacking the superhuman abilities found in the heroes of traditional comic book fare, and unaccustomed to the dangerous living conditions that are part and parcel to urban living, his Uncle Jim was nonetheless the most heroic individual he ever had the honor of knowing.