Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Learning is a Journey Not a Destination

In this life there comes a time when we reach a certain level of expertise in one area which then creates a confidence that flows in all areas of life.  This is usually good and often considered emotionally healthy.  This has been my observation on my own and other people around me.  But sometimes the confidence we derive from excelling at one thing goes beyond some boundaries and it becomes a license to feel superior at everything.  This is not a good thing.  It makes someone emotionally, unhealthy.  It hinders learning.

Beat your last record.  With my recent attempts to engage in a new form of art, in spite of my 59 years of life experience and a PhD,  I have to position myself as a student/beginner putting all other measurements of my own abilities in other areas of life.  As a student, in this new area of interest, one of the first things I've learned is that if I want to excel then I have to tread the long road towards excellence.  I am at the starting point of this road and if I want to get better then I have to look at this road as one without end but with every step taken a new terminal towards my goal. The question would then be:  Is this terminal moving me forward or is this taking me in a loop?  There are no short cuts to getting better but to walk the road.  To keep on is the only way to get ahead and the only measure of improvement  is based only on my improvement from my own starting point. This idea positions me in the right place. If my painting is better than the last one I made then I am moving forward. Sometimes, subconsciously, I compare my abilities with others - which I think is a stumbling block in my improvement as an artist.

Strive to Improve.  It is good to appreciate other's works and skills especially if they are taken as inspiration to get better.  I'm my case, I follow a number of artists on Instagram to learn from. As they say, every expert was once a beginner.  No one skips that.  However, there are times when I lack the motivation to push forward because my improvement seems nil and unmeasurable.  But as in any advancement, the change is not guaranteed a constant speed.  Learning does not happen at a constant speed.  And yet this is all part of a balanced life I'm talking about.  One must strive at some areas while being proficient in other areas.  We learn from others while others learn from us.  No one monopolizes one side of the equation.  We all have a fair share of both ends.  This is how social balance is maintained. This is what makes the journey more fun.  Even my former elementary school classmate who is now a surgeon in Chicago admits to striving to learn about new advances/technology in medicine just to keep his practice current.  For what kind of world would this be if everyone is exactly as good as each other in all subjects? Nothing less than boring, I would say.

Look Up and Learn.  Sometimes when we start on a journey, there is an anxious longing to get to the destination that we miss to appreciate journey.  There is the dream that when we get to the top, that we will be great.  However, time and time again we see that the end is often  a let down.  The end brings us closer not to the imagined glory but to another level of a challenge.  I find it both stimulating and humbling to be at the bottom of the learning process (in art).  I can learn something new from those who have traveled the road longer than than I did.  And sometimes I hear them say something very simple but I keep that in my head and apply it in my next project.  On the other hand being on the bottom of the ladder also helps me appreciate the struggles of those who may yet have to learn what I have already mastered.  Learning is not a destination, it is a journey. 

"Painting is damned difficult - you always think you've got it, but you haven't."   Paul Cezanne

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