Friday, July 27, 2012

no title

Alright: so I found myself out at South Dakota, I did bring my phone and netbook and actually figured out how to use them to post stuff. I wrote way more than I posted though with the idea that I would edit it all when I got back.

The obvious problem there is that it goes against my system. the old voices: "if you can't do it right when will you do it again?!" started up and kept up strong. What a crock! The obvious answer is to post it rough and the refine as I go. A little slip, but none the less....

Here is the rough.... I will drill in and expand as we go. this is just as I wrote it, for myself as a rough draft, so if you can't follow it, don't sweat it. I did break it back into paragraphs, I wrote in word when I didn't have a connect and as a result B's editor didn't know where to put them....( Isn't that funny, one program literally can not chase an other's carrots.)

Three basic portals:
Looking back
Looking forward
Living in the present.

Mystics have long touted the third option as the only viable option for enlightenment but this is absurd.  Enlightenment is a state not an act. Looking forward backward or here is an act and any act can be performed in any state. Looking and thus living in the present is perhaps the hardest thing to do but the results I think are worth the effort. 

 The danger of course is that because you are waking, walking and working in a perpetually instant state, every outside influence is by definition an emergency.  The ability to accurately recognize and manage emergent situations is paramount (precursor) vital to the sustained state of presence.  The clearest advantage to living in this state is that once you learn to sustain it, you can learn to glance up from it, hands off the wheel, and choose to look either forward or backward from your vantage point in the center. You are of course free to look laterally from any position, but when you are forward there is not much to see. when you are backward there is endless variety when you look side and this can lead to paralysis.

 The state of presence (prescience) is commonly known as "living in the moment". This state happens to be my natural state, but because it is so difficult to maintain, the path is often obscured to me.
My reaction to the stresses and tensions of the world is often to attempt to ignore them, but because my natural state is instant, I am open to these energies.  Thus, the more I hope to ignore them, the more power they gain over me.  

In a state of abject depression, I may not want to talk to anyone, regardless of my relationship or circumstances, simply because I am so weary from the world.  Because I am open, there is a constant supply of information, but because I am human I have a limited output.  The resultant dissonance found between the input and output channels creates a vessel overflowing.   When this vessel overflows with the grief, pain and suffering to be found in the corporal world, then as a person I am left stewing in my own dark juices.  Unable to reach out to those around me because they have become abhorrent.  This is what I mean by “bedarked”.

When I am in the flow , I also become open, but rather than being open to information, I am open to energy.  This energy courses through me and makes things that would seem impossible easy.  I am tapped into the flow and able to create freely. Because I am open, there is a constant supply of this energy, but because I am human there is a limit to my output. The result is also a vessel overflowing. When the vessel overflows with the energy of love and creativity, I am left radiant with enlightenment. 

Because of my personality, when I first found this energy, I drank as deeply as I could for as long as I could.  Because I was uncertain of its source I worried it would dissipate and consumed it voraciously. Not knowing how to achieve this state, I abused every system available to me in attempt to find it.  Because I was a neophyte, I accepted substitutes and facsimiles under the mistaken idea they were authentic. I was Like a puppy, so much energy streaming in that I could not contain it. The result was that I exhausted myself regularly, having to take long periods of rest in order to recuperate. This is due to two things: the first is that when I drank so deeply, I separated the connection from my mind and body using the former to push the latter. While the limitations of the mind may be abstract, the limitations of the body are concrete. This division is referred to in these writings as the studio and the shop respectively.
As I matured I understood I could sustain the state, and so grew lazy.  My produce was good and I assumed it would get better.  With youthful limbs succumbing to lengthy days spent intently focused, my produce did get better, and I mistook this for proof.  Eventually though I could not deny that produce had staled. The tensions of the world grew harder and I increasingly found myself unable to effect change in my life.  The resulting cognitive dissonance should have been a red flag, but I had plucked out my eyes. (ironically, because this is how I had come to see so clearly in years past.)  

I increasingly became depressed and anxiety ridden, constantly worried about the outcome of things I seemingly had no control over. How could this happen to one so enlightened as myself?  The answer it turns out is quite simple.

I had achieved the state accidentally, and with little direct guidance. I also happened to have achieved it quite young, so young in fact, that I had numerous conversations with one of my elementary teachers on this very topic. (I do not recall your name, but it was in Pasadena or Deer Park Texas, had to be early 80s and you gave me an Allen Parsons project tape of EA Poe interpretations.  So that I will have said it, thank you. Also, I am sorry but I have since lost the tape)   

Though I was so precocious in matters of the spirit I was completely retarded in the social sphere.  People can be judgmental and a crackpot 4 year old who spouts off about meta concepts has a tough row to hoe.  This lead me to an isolationist position, suited just fine to a white kid in in the American post war culture of rugged individualism. By the time I hit high school I had developed an entire personal mythology around my inability to cope with the world. By the time I hit college I had come to accept this mythology as truth.

I'm a late bloomer, but its worth the wait.
Ill just ease on out and hang on to the gate,
Once it’s all over  I can catch up fast,
And the sooner I fall behind, the longer I'm gonna have.

Let me be clear: if it’s a race I'm done
But where are we going? And aren’t we all one?

There’s no need to worry;  just leave me behind,
I can only get lost if the road doesn’t wind
Besides, I can see y'all just fine up there in the clear
It’s when you want to see me, you have to look in the mirror.

On to the other lenses:

Looking back we see the legacy of our work and how it builds on others, we are fortified in the knowledge that most of the difficult work of design etc… has been accomplished and we are free to explore variations on a theme ad nauseum (ad museum?).  Because each piece relates directly to the last, we build a body of work that is comprehensive and legible.  It is accessible to many people by virtue of its narrow straight path.

When a path is straight then those who diverge to the left or right are not so far apart.  But when a path is curved, then those who diverge to the left or right can be very far from one another. The divergent elements themselves can be either similar or disparate.  (When elements are similar the divergence is lessened, when disparate the divergence is greater.)

The clearest advantage to this state is that your work is nearly assured of success, through the natural processes of attrition and evolution. Put another way: When I am making a traditional pipe tomahawk, I am assured of success if the technique is at least tolerably developed. Because the object itself carries so much social currency (by virtue of its having been repeated so often) Even a rudimentary rendering will be acceptable. It can be quickly put away in the mind of the viewer. The clearest disadvantage is that the work can quickly become stale. Remember that creativity is exploration, a game of hide and seek. If we choose the same hiding spot every time, our partner quickly gets bored.

When we look forward we are free to create without constraint, the challenge then is to create something of worth and value. Because we are closed to the historic record, the pressure is to create de novo.  This of course, ties into the myth of American exceptionalism as well as the rugged independent ideal we are inculturated with. (The belief that everything good is the result of an individual effort)  In point of fact, Nearly every good thing is the result of evolution, a chain of creation stretching through time to touch each ancestor and previous piece in ours and others work.) The clearest advantage of the is state is that you are likely to catch glimpses of truly meaningful things well before others.  As long as the technique is exceptional, the work is assured of notoriety by virtue of its originality.

Process examples:

When I encounter a problem such as the water table, I can easily be too invested in the first idea that comes across. In other words, I can concern myself with how I am to finish before I concern myself with if I should. The water table is a good example because there is frustration in finding someone to cad draw it etc… I can however choose to reinterpret the problem to a less specific plane. (Either as someone else's problem, or in terms that speak to my competencies.) My trouble is with how to make the table using cnc cutting technologies…. Under this context I must either learn cad or find someone to do it. If I redefine however, the problem as one of “what is the easiest way to make this table” I can probably have one in a few hours.  While this expedient table may not be perfect, it will be a better indicator of weather the project has merit than no table.  In other words, its reality will be an upgrade of the the concept.

proposed heuristic: when faced with the choice between conceptual objects and actual objects. Make a conscious choice between the two. In other words:  If all I have in the world is a beautiful chisel and a can of paint to open, the chisels fineness does nothing to save it from the fate of can opener.  Because in the world as I know it, there are many other choices on the continuum, I would never consciously choose to ruin a good chisel by using it as a pry bar. How many times have I seen others do this?  The idea that we can choose between concept and artifact may be foreign to many shops but it is common among studios.

If one is  consciously choosing, then they can exhibit many traits that would seem to confuse the neophyte.  In my shop for example, an apprentice may  become confused when they happen upon my bench in a cluttered state, tools all seemingly in a jumble. When they gingerly pluck up a chisel and then have me scold them for placing it back in the wrong way, their confusion increases.  

To the untrained eye, the bench was already a jumble when they came in: how could it possibly make difference where this chisel is, much less how it is?  To the adept, however, the bench is an organic thing, the growth of which they have been carefully crafting from the start.  The chisel resting on the errant board has been placed so its edge does not contact the bench, and so that, because we are mortising, it will not damage or be damaged in the event of vibration induced dislodgement.  Each file is carefully arranged so that their teeth do not gnash each other and on and on for each object. When taken as a whole the bench seems unmanageable, but it got that way through many small conscious steps. The unruly drama that plays itself out to the neophyte is an open book to the adept, having attended to the growth at each minute stage,  slowly building the whole by increment. 
At certain point, different for every person, the size and complexity of the “mess on the bench” (mob) overrules their ability to contain it within a single conceptual space.  And now a split: On the one hand we can divide the mob and then immediately set out to conquer, and on the other hand we can change strategy. (Conscious strategy change has been one of the hardest and most elusive things for me to learn. This is what I am now focusing on in my own work.) Changing strategy is opening a new window, giving up and trying something new. 

In the case of a mob, we can give up on the strategy of containment, and choose to recategorize our priority from knowing where everything is, to knowing how to find what we need.  In the shop this is difficult, short of tracking devices and beacons, there seems to be little outside of putting away we can do to know how to find our tools. Some people make this shift very effectively, and those shops look very messy and disorganized to me. The owners of those shops do good work nonetheless.

In the studio this strategy works a bit better: an obvious example would be the organization of contacts pre and post cell phone.  

Before cell phones everyone had written contacts that they maintained in leather-bound archives, securely closed and carried from place to place when it was thought a contact might be needed.  Each contact had its own place in the archive, and the archive itself was carefully guarded.  Now that the cell phone is ubiquitous, Many of our most important contacts exist only conceptually, accessed through electronic devises subject to every type of failing.  From time to time this means that we lose our information, sometimes irretrievably.  In many cases, we do not even know the addresses for these contacts, the phone alone retains that information, our interface so replete with icons we never see them.  A loss at this stage should be devastating but it rarely is; we don’t need to know the information, because we have longed learned how to attain it.  

While I certainly offer no argument that the loss of such data is not an inconvenience, I propose that it rarely causes deep consternation as the other paths to that information are still open, they are just less convenient than what we are now used to.

For my own part I tend to keep a quite clean shop, tools are ordered in boxes and things are put away oftener than not. It is not my personal choice to change strategy when faced with a messy bench, I generally just clean it.  What is important however, is to realize that this solution is only relevant to a specific case, for a specific time, under specific conditions.  The problem comes in when we program ourselves to react automatically to situations that might be better manged with other strategies. 

The mob, of course, becomes a larger metaphor for the mental static that keeps us from tuning into the flow.   
It is common among those in contemporary circles, desiring to justify their poor work to say: “If the smiths of yesteryear had (insert modern tool) they would have used it!” 

This is certainly true.  The response we have all been looking for is:  “As the smiths of today do have the benefit of access to an historic treasure trove of design and technique, why won't they use it?”

I love to travel and often when  I am away I am struck by the disparity in the vibe in public places, one example would be food. The food available at the Paris airport if fairly good, for airport food.  All things considered it kicks the snot out of what Americans have traditionally served in their airports, until recently anyhow.  In the Chicago O'hare airport recently I cam across a new little spot I hadn’t seen before, by the name of Tortas, the sign revealing it to be a Rick Bayless store. Now don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled to have better food at the airport, I just find it fascinating that Parisians were able to get together and decide they wanted good food there so long before we did.  Probably as soon as there was food in airports, they decided they wanted it to be good. Not so for Americans, we had to wait until it was the idea of one guy specifically.

This is what I mean by the ideal of the rugged individual affecting the perceptions of American smiths. As a culture we are hardwired to defer to experts.

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