Sunday, December 2, 2012

On mastery- more questions than answers...

In response to my post about "thinking", someone made the comment about obtaining mastery "if that's what one wants to do". Which got me thinking about what exactly mastery is. What does it mean to be a master?

It occurs to me that we can point to some forms of mastery. We can look at an athlete, a musician, a fine artist, a dancer, and say that they produced something flawless. But can we say that about a novel? A dissertation? A composition? A theorem? It seems the products of our hands are far more likely to be objectively considered perfect than the products of our minds.

So what does it mean, then, to obtain "mastery"? Is it the act of producing a flawless object, or is it the journey required to produce that object? Can one be separated from the other?

And when does one become a "Master"? Is it a title one assumes on one's self? Is it a title one accepts from one's peers? Or from one's students? Or does true Mastery come when one accepts that one knows nothing? (Or perhaps one should not write blog posts when watching "Kung Fu Panda".)

Is Mastery even something one can seek? Or does the very act of seeking it nullify it?

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Dude, first off, Kung Fu Panda is more metaphysical than Descartes.

    Second, a physical thing is a function of the mental process, unless one is astronomically lucky. There's the whole "give me enough monkeys and typewriters and I'll eventually give you Shakespeare", but a real master has the background to make the masterWORK repeatable. That's the key: Repeatability. If you can do it over and over with the same level of accomplishment, you're a master. Fact is, it doesn't matter a damn whether or not you can explain it; I know plenty of damn fine master brewers who don't know the slightest about yeast metabolism on the molecular scale, but they're craftsmen who can produce excellent beer every. damn. time.

    In medieval terms, that's mastery. You didn't need to know the molecular traits of your pigments. You had to fucking PAINT. And paint as well as every other master in the guild, every single time. And have a prayer of making a living at it, but that's not exactly applicable to the SCA, though it might kinda should be. ;-)

    "Master" is not a title one assumes oneself unless one is a douchecannon. It's like saying, "Yeah, but my REAL nickname is Ace. Ace Rimmer." "Master" is a title which sneaks up on you - you're sharing what you know, blah blah blah, and suddenly someone is asking you for a license or some shit, and you're all like, shit, when did this happen, and they're all like, duh, dude, when all these kids started calling you Reb, and then you're all embarrassed. That's in the modern, whifty-farkle, huggy-unicorn SCA sense (and Kung Fu Panda). In the medieval sense, it's when you finagled enough people to recognize you as such, whether through payment or patronage. But as that's only very, very obliquely related to the SCA question, the first answer suffices.

    Yes, you can seek mastery. Anyone who gives you some Zen bullshit about how you can't seek it is an ass who's probably trying to keep you from recognition because s/he's jealous. Let's look at real fucking masters (RFMs for short) like Rembrandt.

    Yeah, Rembrandt (note that he's badass enough that everyone knows him by his first name) went through a long-ass apprenticeship. He learned how to mix colors. He learned shit like left-angle-vanishing-points and shit like that. He learned how HIS master said to do all this shit. Then he said, "You know what? I don't want to be Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn; I want to be fucking REMBRANDT, or be known by some stupid fucking symbol like Prince, whoever that time-travelling fuck is". So he did shit like Night Watch, which NOBODY had done. Nobody had even explored how light had that kind of impact. (NB: He was still painting regular ol' shit-for-money portraits, but still!)

    So no, the very act of seeking does fucking NOT nullify it, unless you don't want to be Rembrandt. If you DO want to hide out in the crab bucket, feel free. But master your shit - because Rembrandt couldn't do his shit until he had his ho-hum boring shit DOWN, yo - and then GO F*CKING NUTZ. Because THAT is mastery. Seek that NUTZ and make it YOURZ. And if anyone tells you that ambition is mutually exclusive to mastery, you send 'em to me, because they're so full of shit their eyes are brown.