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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Touch of a Master - Updated

This is a page from the third version of Technopagan Yearnings. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at www.neowayland.com/C692963707/E20091229131908

Zed Shaw got it exactly right in his essay The Master, The Expert, The Programmer. Here's a taste.

I have met quite a few false masters though. These are people who may be very good, and much better than myself. I usually took classes from them, but not because I thought they were “grand masters”, or “masters” or anything. These guys (they were always guys, women are hard to find) were flashy. They could do neat things, could teach really complex techniques, and could tell you every single thing about their martial art possible. Charging you for lesson after lesson was how they made their money after all. Teaching you movie stunt man moves was how they attracted and kept students.

Yet, none of these gentlemen were what I’d consider masters. They were great teachers, and I don’t want to insult them in any way, but none of them were masters of their art. None of them could clearly and simply explain their martial art’s concepts. When I’d ask a complicated question, they would give me a complicated answer. Sometimes their answers were just wrong. Like one guy who tried to show everyone how to break out of an arm lock by punching. He asked me to do the arm lock since I studied Judo, so I did it right and made sure that I rotated with him as he tried to punch. He kept trying to punch me, and I just kept rotating. I really wasn’t paying attention until he suddenly burst out, “Dammit stand still so I can demonstrate.” I said “sorry” but thought, “Yeah, like I’m gonna stand still.” He could have kicked my ass two ways from Sunday, but a simple arm lock frustrated him?

The main thing I noticed about the experts I’ve encountered is they are into impressing you with their abilities. They are usually incredibly good, but their need for recognition gets in the way of mastery. Everything they do is an attempt to prove themselves and in order to do this they must perform like an actor on stage. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I don’t think the expert can become a master without going through this stage in life. At some point though, the expert becomes comfortable with themselves or fed up with impressing everyone and starts to look inward to the core of their art.
No, he's not Pagan. No, he's not talking about Paganism. But I think he is talking about one of those near-universals.

As I was reading this yesterday, I kept remembering the book iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It hat I finished rereading the other day. One thing that characterizes Steve Wozniak's designs is that he uses fewer chips and components than almost anyone else alive. Elegant, simple, mastery. Doing more with less.

I knew a carpenter who was the same way. He made these amazingly simple pieces that fit together without glue or screws or nails, and yet were exactly right.

So the Expert tries to wow you with complication while the Master will do it simply and precisely. The Expert can be overwhelmed by their own efforts while the Master just adapts. That certainly describes one part of human nature. Understanding and precision mark a Master, who "can do more with less."

Works for me. I'm going to adopt it as one of my principles.

Posted: Tue - December 29, 2009 at 01:19 PM

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A narrow slice of life, but now and again pondering American neopaganism, modern adult pagans & the World.

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