And get yourself a steadfast interlocutorMaking mistakes is the point with Dumb Sketch Daily. And it is the point with writing every day. And it is the point with moving forward quickly with client work. Progress happens only as we make mistakes. And often we only realize it was a mistake—or at least somehow fallen short of our dream—when we present our rough sketch to someone else. That’s why it is important to have steadfast interlocutors in our lives. Those ongoing conversations with people we trust help us see what is what, which helps us see how to do something differently, which is what progress looks like. Teachers and professors and authors (and spouses!) can be great conversation partners as we stumble toward some goal.
I am learning to make mistakes in more media. Yesterday I commented on some quick sketches by an artist in Quebec, how simple they were and how definitive.
“It’s easy,” she said. “Just sketch the people you see on TV.”
“Not so easy,” I replied. “I do that as well, but my sketches turn out fussy and juvenile. And ugly. And sometimes I despair at how bad they remain.”
“Well, I do 12 sketches before I get the one I really like.”
I found that encouraging because she is quite accomplished. And of course we all know this is true. One need only think on Philip Glass or Hemingway to gain a bit of perspective.
The more time we commit to the thing, the more mistakes we make, the more we progress. But mistakes are part of the process. As far as I can tell, making mistakes in pursuit of our passion is the only way forward.
Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston
Chris is the Dinosaur
Reading Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal”
Mr. Gawande is a surgeon and medical professor and writer for The New Yorker. His recent Being Mortal is a long conversation about how humans face death. Or, more to the point, how medicine and our own optimism interact to keep us from planning for this known, finite end.
This is not something you think about at 18 or 28. But it is a wedge topic that soon starts to butt into life. At some point you notice aging people appearing all around you. And then you do the math and start to think you may be aging as well—though we’re all hard pressed to say where the time has gone. Like a favorite, recently-passed in-law said not so long ago, “In my mind, I’m still 18.” No one agrees to aging and few self-select as “old.”
Still, there is this inevitable endpoint.
Mr. Gawande’s book does the reader a favor by naming the moving parts of this process. That is, the slower and slower moving parts. From the shrinkage of the brain to why it is that older people seem to choke more to the insult of not driving to the big fear of dementia. One of my favorite characters in the book is the groundbreaking geriatric physician/researcher who was active until he, well, became old. And then, in a clear-eyed fashion, detailed his decline, his motivations with caring for his wife of 70 years who became blind then deaf, and then broke her ankles. It’s a happy/sad love story of a couple who were active into their 90s.
As a believer in the God who resurrects, I do not think of death as final. But as aging continues (which I don’t feel but suppose is acting on me even now), my reading of the gospels and prophets and psalms finds me looking for clues that point beyond what medicine says and beyond what my own senses say. I find a good bit of hope in what I read.
Wendell Berry explored this topic with extraordinary care. His The Memory of Old Jack is a solid antidote to our collective denial.
Image credit: Atul Gawande, Kirk Livingston
#That’sJustTooHard: Think Before Speaking
One kind of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values. Such judgments are reflected in language such as, “The problem with you is that you’re too selfish.” “She’s lazy.” “Their prejudiced.” “It’s inappropriate.” Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, comparisons, and diagnoses are all forms of judgment.
–Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication (Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press, 2005) 16
Which is not to say we do not have values and make judgments based on our values. Of course we do. But what if held back our knee-jerk spew of moralistic judgment about someone we’ve never met? What if we first talked with them?
A conversation could show us how wrong we were—or confirm our suspicions.
*Of course I am pointing to my own failure at this before pointing anywhere else.
Image Credit: Kirk Livingston