Thursday, July 5, 2012

Not knowing what we don't know

Yesterday I learned how to give an insulin shot to a cat.

This is not a skill I ever imagined I'd need to know.  Honestly, it's not a skill I ever thought about in any way, shape, or form until two days ago when I got a call about kitty-watching.   One of my feline charges is diabetic.  Thus the lesson yesterday. 

Last night my dad shared his thoughts with me about my "Perfection" post.  He talked about it from his perspective as a several-decades-older-than-me artist.  He said that for him, it wasn't about reaching perfection, it was about doing his best, since his own abilities would not allow him to reach perfection.  I thought I had said something similar in my post, in fact that that was the heart of the post, and replied that I didn't think anyone could reach artistic perfection.

"Michelangelo did, but he didn't know it."  This was an unexpected response, one that gave me pause. Is it possible to reach perfection and not know you've done it?  I have a book of quotes that a friend from high school made for me and gave me senior year.  I've used several of those quote recently, several of the 365 quotes that she found and wrote down for me before the age of computers and "X-number of Inspirational Quotes" websites existed.  One of those quotes is from Michelangelo.  It is simply this: "I am still learning."

I don't know when Michelangelo said this or in what context, but it is interesting to consider that Michelangelo, who, according to my dad (and I'm sure he's not the only one who believes it), reached perfection, felt that he was still walking the path to something better. Who is it that is/was lacking in knowledge?  My dad?  Michelangelo?  Both of them?  Are there things Michelangelo knew he didn't know that my dad doesn't see and doesn't even know that he doesn't see?  I am wholly unqualified to answer these questions.

I don't have to ask if I still have things to learn.  I know I do.  As I begin down a new road that I'll simply call "writing," a road whose turns have surprised me a few times already, I am particularly cognizant that not only is there a lot that I don't know, there is a lot that I don't even know that I don't know.  Many of my conversations with more established writers have started like this: "What do I need to know? What should I be thinking about?"  These are huge and unfocused questions. Thankfully, those I've talked to have been patient with me, guiding me to shift my lens just so in order to see a little more clearly.  They have also asked me to turn the lens in completely different directions, allowing me to discover concepts and skills that I didn't even know I'd need to consider, because I didn't know they existed.  From such conversations, I have been able to both focus more clearly in some places and broaden my scope in others.  

It is humbling to admit that I basically know nothing, that I can't see one step ahead of where I'm walking.  It is also exciting, as it opens me up to whole new worlds as yet unimagined and unexplored.  Who knows what those worlds may hold?

As strange as it may seem, even giving a cat an insulin shot for the first time, a new world in itself, is helping me to take steps forward on my writing path.  Learning to give the shot is a reminder of all that I don't know and all that I don't know that I don't know.  It is a reminder to look around me, not only for the comfort and safety of the familiar, but for the unfamiliar, for the new, for the questions that beg to be asked, but can't until I know they exist.  It is a reminder not only to look at the unfamiliar, but to step into it, so that the unknowns may become known and new unknowns emerge.  It is a reminder to be open to the vastness of the Mystery that surrounds me.


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