Uncertainty is a Virtue

2009-02-11 19:00:00 -0500

Lately my subway-reading materials seem to broadly spin around what it means to be an artist, and processes, and what’s involved in actually setting about the doing of your work, the making of your art. I crunched through Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running so quickly that I think I need to read it again (I’m looking forward to it, and I rarely re-read books), and I’ve since moved on to Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This is a particularly interesting subject for me as a song-writer and a programmer, although for really different (and probably obvious) reasons that I’m not going to go into right now, save to pull some choice quotes that I’ve found to be really profound.

This one is from Art & Fear:

Vision & Execution

More often, though, fears rise in those entirely appropriate (and frequently recurring) moments when vision races ahead of execution. Consider the story of the young student – well, David Bayles, to be exact – who began piano studies with a Master. After a few months’ practice, David lamented to his teacher, “But I can hear the music so much better in my head than I can get out of my fingers.”

To which the Master replied, “What makes you think that ever changes?”

That’s why they’re called Masters. When he raised David’s discovery from an expression of self-doubt to a simple observation of reality, uncertainty became an asset. Lessn for the day: vision is always ahead of execution — and it should be. Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.

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