Shadowy Façade

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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!

Everything is Rehearsal

photoIf we are willing to listen, learn, and practice, everything that happens can be rehearsal for a better performance the next time. Musicians know this. We should all recognize it.

Being perfect isn’t the goal. Even being exactly the same each time isn’t it. Mechanically identical reproduction of an event or a feeling or an occasion is for machines; life is messier and more complicated and more artful than that and means we have to be ready to use all that we’ve learned in all of our rehearsals, combined in whatever way gets us the best result in the present moment. It means, too, that what is the best solution for that moment may not be reproducible or even desirable next time. A CD is a lovely evocation of memory but the live performance takes hold of us down to the soul in a very different way.

I want to become better at whatever I am. Some of the betterment may come fairly easily as I recognize more clearly what I am, as I grow older and have more experiences and find my way through more of my life’s journey, picking up clews as I go. More of it will happen, if at all, because I work hard to improve myself in one way and another.

There’s no guarantee that any given moment or event will find me at my best, or even that I will become the best version of myself that I am capable of being no matter how long I live. But I’ll certainly have a better shot at any of that if I commit to practicing.photo

That Ship has Sailed

photoWhat is the purpose of regret? If I don’t learn from my mistakes and move forward the wiser and determined to be better, then no amount of guilty or disappointed remembrance on my part can have any use at all. Life, no matter how it ebbs and flows, doesn’t repeat itself for my convenience. Dratted Life, anyhow.

It’s great, whilst muddling through, to ‘get it right,’ but being a mere mortal, I don’t do that nearly as often as I’d like. Being stubborn and having my intellectual and emotional limits as well, I may try to learn and practice and improve, but I’ll surely never do so infallibly, and almost always, the progress is slow.

All the same, I think myself wise in one small thing, at least: I work with fair determination at letting go of or minimizing those things that I wish I could change but can’t. I’d hate to think I devoted yet more time to the irreparable past and wasted yet more of the present in the process. My adventures in sailing forward may be small, but I hope I’ll keep bobbing along with the tide of time in my own little way even if the wind has gone out of my sails for a moment.

And if I really find myself dead in the water, why then I hope I’m clever enough to get out my oars and start rowing for my life.

…and Don’t Forget, I Tell Myself, These *Other* Things…

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Foodie Tuesday: Drink & Shrink

photoWould that I could tell you that today’s post title implies I’ve discovered a miracle diet that allows me to become slinky and svelte by doing nothing but sipping cocktails, yet alas, this most sadly is not so. In fact, it’s a very safe bet that numerous cocktails are, like certain bras, nothing more than alluring cups full of doom, being bad for both health and sanity if sampled in inappropriate quantities and circumstances. But to steer closer to my actual point, I must confess that despite my many food-and-drink-related loves and obsessions, I do get quite hungry and thirsty for a healthier change on occasion.

Like now. I seem to have been on a bender lately, eating too often, too much, and too badly in general, and my body is complaining. It’s not that I have grown morbidly obese, thanks more to good genes and good luck than good behavior, but I have grown a whole lot closer to outgrowing my attire and decidedly closer, as well, to just not feeling so great. It makes me squirm when I think of how unfit I will be in short shrift if I don’t just stop being such a spoiled child around food. And I have it on good authority that being horribly unfit is not the way to insure a longer, healthier life.

Drat.

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At least I know that I can still have delicious food, but even if it’s better for me, eating too many helpings of ‘Waldorf’ slaw (sweet cabbage-yogurt salad with chopped apples) is just as dangerous to my eating habits as too many helpings of pretty much anything.

I must throw a bracing dash of cold water on my enthusiasm for overindulgence and get myself closer to optimal comfort. I don’t care if that makes me model-thin or gives me fab abs or any of that superficially pleasing stuff or not; what I want is to feel my best and have a good shot at the whole ‘live long and prosper’ proposition. I know from experience that among other benefits of returning to a more thoughtful eating agenda, my appreciation of all that I do eat and drink increases greatly, to the point where a simple slice of citrus and a glass of pure, clean water is a pleasing sensory experience as well as thirst-quenching, and a complete meal becomes a feast. So much more satisfying in the long run.

And I do want a good long run of it, after all.photo

I Tell Myself These Things, Too…

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One Simple Self-Improvement Tool: Live Among Your Betters & Keep Your Eyes Open

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