Shadowy Façade

digitally doctored photo

There are endless supplies of guides on How To do something-or-anything; I’m more concerned with How Not to Do It. Much of the how-to tutorials seem aimed more at giving us a gloss of respectability in the subject, a sort of facade of excellence, than actual, practical depth. Expertise is, obviously, a relative thing, after all. It’s not all that hard to be considered an expert in or at something that is very rare or an extremely new discovery or invention: lack of exposure guarantees that few can have mastery. A whole lot more, however, is skill or knowledge that takes a dedicated effort to master to any level of real expertise.

My greatest expertise, if I can be said to have any, is probably in the category of performing ‘filler’ duties in most of the activities I try. Work as I may, I’m not likely to become great at most, and I seldom find learning anything all that easily or swiftly done. Being naturally lazy, I’m even less often found pursuing new knowledge and skills with great rigor and vigor just for their own sakes. So at best, I tend to end somewhere in the middle of the pack. I like to think of myself as the necessary delineator between the great and the mediocre.

All silliness aside, this seems to me an age in which we, collectively, have lost our appreciation for true expertise. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I get the sense that somewhere between the assumption that a speedy dash through Wikipedia will provide all the wisdom we need on any topic and our fascination with outliers—finding the novelty of savants and overnight sensations far more exciting than hardworking earned-doctorate intelligence—and the sense of entitlement our privileged modern existence gives us, we lose touch with the value of elbow grease and passion.

I wasn’t born either brilliant or extraordinarily gifted, and I’m not ashamed of that. But it’d be a pity to go to my grave without having tried to improve on what few bits of intelligence and invention I do have. If I manage to do my best in the present and keep moving toward an elevated horizon, I may not change the world for the better by a single degree, but I will certainly have bettered myself and I might have the slightest chance of shedding a little light around me as I go.

Looks like I’d better get moving!

16 thoughts on “Shadowy Façade

  1. Good morning Katherine. Excellent post, as always….and I totally agree with you that striving to improve and to seek excellence in a given area can only be positive. It seems to me that the notion of ‘focusing’ on any one thing is becoming more and more difficult as we rely more and more on the instant gratification that technology seems to offer. Wishing you a creative and peaceful week ahead. Janet.x

    • Oddly, I find my tech tools for art addictive enough at times that I spend great stretches of time working intensely with them and don’t tire of trying to learn more, so perhaps there’s still hope. 🙂

  2. You know what Malcolm Gladwell has to say in his book The Outliers… it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become proficient. How’s that for a challenge?

    • Exactly. Now, I’m having a bit of discombobulation as I wonder if avid consumption of articles on trivia actually contradicts their content!? Doesn’t sound lazy to *ME*. 😀

  3. If we continue to try and improve and achieve, we can’t help but improve the world just by our interaction with it. It is a somewhat discouraging thing to wake up one day and realize that I am not destined for greatness, but that doesn’t release me from trying. After all, Michelangelo was over 70 when he painted the Sistine Chapel. Maybe there is time after all. 🙂

    • Shall I just call you “Mike”? 😉 Greatness is soooo relative. I’m much more interested in people who are great *people* than those who are great at *doing* something. 🙂 Carry on, my friend.

  4. “I may not change the world for the better by a single degree, but I will certainly have bettered myself and I might have the slightest chance of shedding a little light around me as I go.” Hallelujah! Me too. 🙂

  5. I have had some similar thoughts. Recently, while viewing a show at a contemporary art gallery in Seattle, my companion referred to a “movement” (aka trend?) as CRAPSTRACTION; i.e. lack of skill, expertise and craftsmanship that passes for art. I figure this trend too shall pass away from our memories, Gos willing.

    • Yes, Puh-leeze! I am too lazy to claim to be a fabulous craftsperson myself, but I hope I know better than to try to foist my second-rate stuff on anyone but the people who love me so much they’d put even my most Craptastic pieces up on their refrigerator doors. 😉 Of course, even while I am myself an admitted non-master, I’m still quite the snarky critic of others when I don’t think their work up to my *looking-at-it* standards, so I’m probably not the most impartial judge by a long stretch. Ha!

      All I can say is that I hope you take no offense that I still admire your work immensely. Really! 😀 May such *fine* work prevail over all of the Crapstraction in the end.

      Cheers, and love to you and Greg!

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