Friday, May 08, 2009

Old Fart at Play

I resent the caution that comes with age.

When you're young you're reckless. You don't think about the consequences of your actions. You don't wonder if the idea's any good — it doesn't even occur to you that an idea you've had might not be. You just plow on, what the hell. If everything goes to shit, oh well — the next idea's here already, and this one's brilliant.

As you grow older, you question your ideas. I've heard it said that you get fewer, but I don't think this is so: I think it's more that you accept each one less uncritically, you question, and fewer get past that initial thought and make it to something realised. This isn't necessarily bad, of course. It's got something to do with wisdom, the experience that enables you to dismiss the idea that isn't going to go anywhere. You learn to conserve energy, because you don't have so much. You think of the boundless energy you had when you were young, and stupid, and thoughtless, and profligate in your thoughts, and wish you had that energy now, now that you've got the wisdom to expend it on valuable activities more than frivolous ones.

There's more to it than that, though. Sometimes I start to think, is this wisdom stopping me doing this? Or the complacency that received wisdom generates? Or is it fear? Growing older you learn the tricks, you negotiate the traps better, you avoid the failures. But failure's not always such a bad thing is it? Sometimes the mistakes are more valuable than the assured, competent execution, because they shake you out of your viewpoint. Sometimes they can give you that sudden realisation that there's another way to do things, that you hadn't thought of before. That's what keeps music, or any art, alive.

Of course sometimes mistakes are just shit and you're wasting your time, but you've got to take the risk.

That's what I resent about the caution. It stops you fucking up, but it can also stop the interesting fucking up that real proper actual art comes from. It's easy to learn, harder to un-learn.


An Unreliable Witness said...

I couldn't agree more.
With everything.
And this was a particularly good day for me to read this, too.

Mariana Soffer said...

Simplified/child-like explanation:

The thing with learning is that you create a circuit of connections among your neurons that perform a task by interacting with each other. This circuit can be place in many different places of the brain, such as bunch of neurons that no longer have relevant task. Now the problem to undo the circuit that was created is that it is located in a specific place, not just any place, and that is connected with other circuits that will try to stop you from altering them.