As big, fat grown-ups, there are things that we “know”, skills that we have accrued, information available to our brains from a lifetime of learning. This can be very helpful in many ways. We can do things we couldn’t do when we were younger, like sew, read, and poop in the potty. It’s great!
This picture makes me feel sad inside but I’m not sure why.
However, the older I get, the more I seem to realize how little I know and how little I’m likely to learn, in the great scheme of things. I’m a learner. I’m constantly trying to learn new things but the vast amount of information out there combined with my nonexistent memory means that I will be forever ignorant of most knowledge that exists. Hmmm. Bummer.
Now, us fancy creative types know that information and skill is only half the battle. A lot of life, and art, is just figuring it out as you go. Making it up, faking it, and going for it. You can be a classically trained guitar player and suck at writing songs. The Kinks deride this type of player in their song, “Session Man”.
The Kinks, all high and mighty with their fluffy hair and fantastic music.
On the flip side, there are artists with little to no training, creating amazing art. Henry Darger is an easy example that comes to mind. His giant graphic novel with naked little girl/boys is beautiful in its imperfection.
“In the Realms of the Unreal” by Henry Darger is wonderful and confusing.
Influential punk bands like The Slits didn’t really know a lot about playing instruments, but they played anyway and created something new, distinctive, and raw.
The Slits, rocking the “back comb” hairstyle.
However, in her recent memoir, Viv Albertine, the guitarist for The Slits, said she wished she’d learned how to properly play the guitar. After the band broke up, she couldn’t play with anyone else. I wonder, though, if she had learned, would they have been as good? All I know is, her solo album is, well, pretty crappy.
It makes me wonder about the power of combined knowledge. If we can’t learn everything, maybe our only hope is to combine forces. Easier said than done. When collaborations work, they are magical. You can achieve things unattainable on your own. However, they don’t always work. People are weird and difficult sometimes. Sometimes collaborations just run their course.
And thusly, there is this constant struggle between acquisition of real, tangible knowledge and being comfortable with just going with it, regardless of how clueless we really are. I don’t think that there is a right answer and I think that it depends on the person. Personally, I’m just gonna keep on truckin’, learning new things, keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open, and trying to be brave when I don’t know the answer.