Let’s kick this off with Adam Drucker’s (Doseone) mot: Getting open is the prime objective, it’s sort of like blacking out but with lots of light.
This one is going to meander about the idea of osmosis and skill, yet again; about acquisition and execution, performance and flow. Which is to say, the first thing first: feedback.
Feedback: what an apt word. Effects–like food–feed back and nourish the roots that yield them. Bootstrapping, in essence. A self-enclosed loop of (re)action.
If what we do and what we give to the world in the form of our actions and reactions don’t get fed back to us in some way, shape or form we, as mentalemotional flesh-and-blood gluttons inevitably become malnourished. If what we are is not re-flected somehow back to us then we are simply not. Feedback is the #1 nourishment of the mind. Deprived of it we are catapulted into a mode of starvation.
Think of sensory deprivation and the loss of mental coherence after a little time inside the tank. Like depriving a playful child of its toys the brain is robbed of the impulses it seeks. It’s all but hungry tentacles flailing about. A cascade without structure. There is just no way of moving forward, so to speak, without being fed back.
[Feedback, of course, spans many levels of analysis (like biodynamic and ecological scales, besides the psychological one) but let’s just stick to the general one here: the level of the everyday, the performative. The mind, that is. The embodied mind.]
Feedback is the fuel of the mind. The responses we cull (un- and sub- and sur- and plain consciously) provide the mirror in which our visage coheres into a semblance of a functioning self. Our project (of being) opens amidst the rejoinders it’s afforded. Whether I fast (in solitude buried in books and the interwebs) or feast (by going out and socializing a great deal) this is the stuff that suckles my mind.
Exposure is a must, for sure, and its extent key. Which is to say, the greater the mind the greater the range of feedback loops and the enclosed experiential content it (structurally) opens to. And here is the message, the gospel if you like: It is openness that unlocks my powers, and it involves taking chances. Openness is always a double-edged thing. Power and vulnerability, they go hand in hand, in tandem.
Now, feedback combined with openness equals the process called learning. In short, learning is the bread and butter of the hungry mind (forever caught up in webs of feedback loops) and learning is impossible without the dialectical loop of trial and error. Basically, it is failure that provides the feedback. It’s the friction where it’s really at. Emergence is via traction. The less I try the less I am.
To translate this, for instance, into interpersonal terms think of interpersonal conflicts. Conflicts are the engines that (may) engineer (enhanced) resolutions. Without conflicts we dwell only in a drab world of meager dimensions–turgidly put. Without (self-reliance and) candidness I get stuck in the black box of narcisism where I project all my fragility into others and protect all my vulnerability from others.
Not a good place to be in, that box. We need to be willing to take the leap and dis- or at least downregard the (crippling) fears of the potential social risks involved. Because it’s as simple as that. We act and we get feedback, and thus get to be: ourselves, more and more.
to tie this all back to performance and flow let’s get back to Doseone. In an interview this is what he says about the skill (art and craft) of freestyle rapping:
You have to be constantly spontaneous… like the first time you jump off the high dive: you don’t see anything, it’s just split seconds.. tenth time you feel like you might be able to control your body a little bit, and then there is people in the olympics who spin around, go through frickin fireholes, thread a needle and don’t make water splash.
This is a brilliant illustration, intimating among other things crucial spatiotemporal aspects of these dynamics. Dose continues: “Such would be a good analogy for what it’s like to get good at getting open which is the main objective. On the way there you suck invariably and it’s inevitable. I was horrible when I started. You kind of have to enjoy falling”..in order to get out of your stiffness and into the embodiment of your individual style, to paraphrase his conclusion.
Compare this to Al Pacino’s similarly insightful remarks about good acting, which I transcribed from his conversation with James Lipton inside the actor’s studio: “What you are trying to do is to get yourself out of the way all the time and when you are very successful at something it is when you do that the most.” This is the gist of it. Like blacking out but with lots of light, or, in my formulation: flying by way of falling. Pacino then goes on to say:
that’s what I mean about osmosis: you go into a thing and you just try to get as much stuff into you […] so that you get further and further away from the words and into the behaviour and the stuff that is there; and it comes into you and it seeps into your unconscious and it finds a way, hopefully, when it connects, it finds a way out and it can lead to all kinds of interesting moments.
Again, “sort of like blacking out but with lots of light [where] all the words seem to fall in place.” That’s, Pacino adds,
how you learn, and that’s how you massage that instrument. Then you just keep doing it; and you fall down. You get up; you go this way, you go that way. You’re unhappy with yourself. You think that you are the worst actor that’s ever lived… It’s like Lee Strasberg used to say: you learn the most from your failures. You just do. So, the idea is to just do it all. You want to keep inventing. You want to keep not knowing.
To keep inventing and not knowing.. sounds like a great new years resolution indeed.
To sum up, briefly: practice makes perfect, provided it calls forth feedback that we then capitalize upon and utilize for our betterment. By way of falling we learn to fly.
The inevitable Beckett passage pops in at this point of course: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Happy new year!