SUCCESS AND THE INFINITE
(originally published on LinkedIn)
The following question was pitched my way recently: how long does it take you to produce a finished piece of art?
Obviously there can only be a generalized answer to this question. On average. . .
The query motivated me to consider how long different steps take, to break the total time down, even if the exercise ends up a matter of estimating an average or mean time.
But, soon enough, being a systems’ thinker, my reflection wandered toward more vague territories, and then into territories where concepts such as interval, or beginning-and-end, come to be defeated close to the outset.
Back up from the moment of one of your own greatest successes. If someone asked you, ‘how long did it take you to produce this success?’ what would go into your answer?
My own reflection on this question-and, for me, a produced art work is always a moment of great success–wandered soon into intriguing considerations which take into account crucial aspects that tend to break apart mere regard for the time interval mechanical elements required.
I’m going to mention a few aspects. Before I do so, my hope is you’ll do a short exercise and reconsider an example in your own life under the light of the following different lenses.
An aspect of any success clearly is defined by all the learning from experience, and, learning from mistakes. If asked how long something took, do we usually sever from our consideration all most necessary but unplanned prior preparations?
Similarly, how much of a time factor in a great success is all of our formal and informal training?
When I turn to the fact of inspiration, and so turn to the genesis of a great success, and consider its origin and the starting point given long before this success was assured, I cannot help but be impressed by how discrete time is inadequate to the task of measuring inspiration.
My brightest ideas emerged from an unfolding story and its colorful conditions. This becomes doubly impressive if we then regard the nature of inspiration to have been a collaborative effort and see, then, a streaming of stories, and, conditions about conditions, all unfolding through a kind of mysterious coordination until these flex and fulminate together into the emergent a-ha, and, up and out comes the bright idea. Tell me, how long did this take?
I next bring into resolution the aspect of the spontaneously fortuitous contingency, what we of course better know as serendipity, and instantly the inadequacy of even the concept of intervalic time, is defeated. At this point our greatest success is seen to be an aspect of an almost cosmic element of lucky timing, of not only being in the right time and place in the concrete sense, but in the right time and place in the sense of an ecology of timing and various places, and, grooved by precedents both planned and unplanned.
Finally, look at the relational genealogy of a success. This is what is meant by the trope, standing on the shoulders of giants. This element is woven into serendipity too, because if we track a success backward in time to where its eventual subject is founded in the past by our: interest, or obsession, or mission, or capability, it is inevitable that we will see these centering commitments to have themselves a founding story. Very often the creation story in the background of our future devotion starts with the happiest of accidents. Those accidents land us: in the right community, around the right people, bring us to our mentors/teachers/guides, with the supporting partner, living amidst the most terrific, and helpful, neighbors, colleagues.
We also see that we can no more separate out from our current success, any of these required prior successes, and failures, and, any small yet required learning, and any chance yet required encounter or precedent.
So it is a web of relationships comes to the front and center, in our regard of what was required for this small or major success. The genealogical current defies both time itself and timing. It provides the awesome “just so” in the deep background of every success.
Yes, one should count themselves a little bit lucky, or maybe, a lot lucky, to stand at the apex of a great success. You and your great success are at the summit of an iceberg, whereas the hidden, necessary, contingent assembly of elements cannot be temporally measured.
To rephrase a Zen aphorism for my purposes here:
the infinite is in the finite of every success
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|| Stephen Calhoun’s creative successes are being exhibited in a one man show of his photographic and generative art work, The Grasp of Order, at The Gallery At Gray’s, 10717 Detroit Ave – through September 30. open 9/24 noon-4pm – open during the work week, call 216-226-3300 for hours.