They say we are born as empty slates, pure white canvases onto which life leaves its marks and in the end produces a singular, unique imprint of colours, shapes and forms. While this may or may not be true, today I would like to think about the process itself.
Whether or not we truly are immaculate at our beginning is an incredibly complex and interesting question, but at the same time it rather easily leads to fruitless philosophising and in the end has very little utilitarian value to us.
As we are not in control of where we are born or who gets to be in charge of our upbringing and how, I view it more as a onetime event, a mark of origin that any one of us needs to explore, but after we come to understand it, the main power that all of us possess is to change whatever circumstances have been given to us.
Indeed, we can change everything we are, if we so desire.
Exactly this ability to change is incredible, almost unprecedented in the world (we still have little to no idea about the true amount of intellect that animals really possess) and with each and everyone of us having this power at our disposal, I believe it is incredibly important to really understand it and cultivate it throughout our lives.
We start off in a complete foreign environment, we don’t just not understand the world around us, we are so displaced and unconnected to reality that at the beginning we indeed do not even understand our own bodies.
A child will marvel and amuse itself by moving its feet; shaking and twisting them and delighting in the control and understanding such manoeuvres give it. But as a person evolves, they will become more in tune with their bodies and their environment.
They will learn how to move their limbs in such a fashion that allows them to walk, run, jump, crawl. From there, they might find other uses for their newly acquired tools, like opening cans, throwing things and drawing or painting crude squiggles on walls and other places their parents might not agree with.
After each new ability is learned, they might hone their skills even more, becoming proficient at throwing and running to the degree that they’ll be able to participate effortlessly in various sports and other social activities.
They might also learn how to draw so well that they’ll be able to precisely depict reality with their images; drawing their dog or cat, so that anyone is able to recognise the kind of animal from the drawing they created.
Soon, they will intuitively be able to draw more complex relations of reality; the sizes of various objects will tell of their importance to them, they will observe and create images, based on the dominance hierarchy that surrounds them in their homes as well as their surrounding environment.
If not too constrained, they will incorporate other interests into the drawings; building imaginary landscapes, that combine their hobbies, favourite objects and loved ones and friends. In the end, combining all of their interests, polarising them more and more to the point of mastery.
Then they might exhibit their work and show the world their intricate understanding on anatomy, human behaviour or the exquisite nature of their brushwork. What started out as various, small interests that sparked flames of curiosity will evolve into a wide array of knowledge and understanding about the world and themselves.
But some, equally in search of attaining mastery in their field will religiously practice the few skills that pertain to that field and nothing more; by such merit, the violinist should only know how to play the violin, the sculptor should not care about paintings, nor should the expert shoemaker be interested in bridges or architecture.
But this commonly held belief is the true poison in the well of creativity. Because mastery of the creative potential that each of us harbours does not happen through our proficiency with one specific tool, but our ability to wander and be curious about a myriad of different tools in conjunction with each-other.
Not to negligently scrape the surface of each of them and then pass by, but to get to the point of true understanding, and then letting go. I think a lot of us tend to either overdo our proficiency in one subject, to the point it becomes stale and dreadful, or our ability to carelessly wander the world like an open buffet — trying various things, but never really settling enough on each to be able to really get the hang of them.
The true point of mastery therefore is in the balance of both; a kind of eager and playful curiosity on one side, complimented with intense rigour and dedication on the other. I think only those of us that find this balance and don’t waste our time straying from our path of curiosity and exploration in the end attain true mastery of our interests.
And while mastery surely is the most niche ability a person could posses, its road to attainment could not be more scattered, diverse and broad. I guess the main goal is to be prepared to build ones house in stone, while not being afraid to leave the second it is done, in search of a better way to live, a stronger place to call home.