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Monthly Archives: April 2006

It’s an odd sensation that has been building up for the past 6-8 months for me, and in hindsight I can see the wide range of influences that are pushing me to consider this as a course of action.

I’m not the type designated Artistic. I view art as something mystical and magical that is beyond my ability, that is something transcendentally mystical, that I have no ability to emulate. It is a sensation of watching something that was beyond my capability, with a skill that I could never even hope to emulate. It has a distinct otherness, it is totally alien and external to me, with no connection. Art classes were wasted on me.

Towards the end of Year 13, almost 3 years ago now, I started to get into Photoshop, and to fiddle with the creation of digital images, manipulating and altering images, as well as creating my own from scratch and using the abundant source material that the internet made available through the Internet Oracle of Google Image Search. It was fun while it was going on, with the ability to tamper and tweak reality, and play around with how an image was composed. In hindsight I think this was the first artistic thing that I ever wanted to do. I suppose the fact that it could be done on a computer made it more normal for me, something that I could do and that wasn’t artsy. I was very concerned to stay within my limits then, not too keen to push boundaries that did not need to be pushed.

Now it’s advanced a further step, and I want to get to the original root of this creative enterprise. I really want to learn how to draw well. I think it would be a useful and useful skill, which would give me another way of expressing myself in this weird and wonderful world, and also to try and express myself in a new and different way. The possibilities of line and colour are infinitely more then that of the written word, which is my current confined medium.

There is also a sense in which I’d like to push the boundaries of my limits, just to inch them outwards a few yards, and try and give myself a little more variety and roundness in my perception of the world. I am very strictly a verbal person, with a strong focus on the limits of the written world, as well as a limited understanding of the rhetorical flourishes and tricks that can be employed in English to give punch to a sentence.

Language is just one mean of expressing yourself, and in a way I feel a bit over compartmentalised and deficient, that I don’t have the ability to employ what is perhaps the most primordial and powerful method of human expression.

Any one have any tips?

For all my championing of excellence, I said something in a conversation yesterday that made me come up short. A friend was telling me of the effort and will he was putting into a particular topic, and how determined he was to ensure that all turned out as right as it could be. To this noble sentiment I gave a callous response. You would be surprised, I told him, how far mediocrity would get you.

The fact is that this is a stunning concession on my side. I, who spent all those posts espousing stronger values of determination, focus, ambition and planning am back to putting forward the cause of mediocrity? The reason I do this is because even in the context of mediocrity I find that most people are unwilling to put in the necessary effort. Take attending university. The mediocre minimum is to turn up on time, to classes whilst having done the reading. Sit there and pay attention, try to answer between two and three questions that are asked of the class by the teacher, the earlier the question is asked the better, for earlier questions tend to be easier ones, and you will be astonished how far this will carry you. You become instantly part of the cream of the crop. Teachers will say good things of you, people will peg you as one of the clever people and consider your words of special worth. It might make you uncool though, it’s never been trendy to be smart.

Sadly this represents too onerous a demand on many who attend. They want to hide in the back, to create a notional attendance, too afraid of not knowing or being made to look stupid or even worse too apathetic. Surely even if you do not know guessing in a class will make a tremendous step forward. Is it really hard to do this? Turn up, bluff your way through a question, and journey on through the day having made your small contribution. If you do even this, you will make a great impact on people that you pass through on your day. Reliability, a bit of information and a point of view will be more then enough to make you look like a genius.

True genius is transcendent, it is rare, exceptional and usually simple. Most people don’t understand how to do it and are forced to live on in anonymity. Genius is a collection of simple habits that fake most of its attributes, and I assure you, you can get away with it. The fact is that most people around us don’t understand it and have no exposure to it. They take it to be something they can deal with, and therefore even the simulation of it will gain you all the accolades of it. And more crucially I believe, by taking on the habits and styling of it, you inculcate in you the ability to do it.
When they were friendly games of chess, I used to say often to my most favoured Opponent, that he had eyes, but he did not see. It was a favourite metaphor of mine for those moments when to the opponent the game looked inscrutable, where a move revealed neither rhyme nor reason. It appeared almost a casual move, nonchalantly taken to move a piece from one benign position into another, but in chess, as in life, not many moves are actually made with such iron nerve so as to leave them possessing and yet unpossessed of meaning. To understand why a certain thing has happened, you must know its functioning, its fit and how these tie together. It is the true difference between seeing and knowing.

If you have ever read the great fictional detectives they exemplify this quality. They treat nothing as trivial or transient; they pay attention to the world and understand the meaning and significance of every gesture. This is an attribute that I find increasingly abstracted from many people who wonder through life today. We’re too used to things just working, and expect too much from too little investment. If it stops working, well everyone is too busy to repair it, or find time to have a poke and prod at the issue to see what can be done to resolve it? No, now there must be an expert, his services determined either necessary or unnecessary, and the item disposed of or retained. There is no decision to invest time in discovering what can be done and perhaps applying our own ingenuity to the problem. People will persist in what they do, they will look and gaze on the majesty of the solved problem, but will never dare look at it unsolved. It is to be palmed off on another, who may use whatever tools he will. We’re not bothered with this understanding malarky.

I find this distressing because in my life I have always considered myself a practical problem solver. I enjoyed the challenge of lateral thinking, to have a go at working around the obstacle that confronted me.

What is more interesting is that I feel we’re heading this way in an age when the information you need is getting ever more easily accessible. Google, the Delphian Oracle of our Times, can bring answers to all questions if you would but supplicate before it a coherent question. If you would spend 15 minutes learning how to put in tags into a search engine, to cohere the difference between an ‘AND’ operator and an ‘OR’ operator in a search engine. To add and subtract terms and refine the search, you too would find all the information that I find, and so often seem to have to find for you.

A lot of information, of the power of knowledge, is to know where to find what you need. You have to know how to look, and increasingly I feel people do not know how to look. Such trends can only be sad, that people feel so un-empowered by knowledge that they will not go out of their way to acquire it, even when it might be useful, must surely be a disappointment.