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Theodoor Rombouts: Allegory of the Five Senses, first half of the 17th Century.
"You're not actually going anywhere, anyway, JustPracticing."

When physicians ply their trade we say they're Practicing medicine. When surgeons work, we claim that they're performing. Since all surgeons are simultaneously physicians, are they Practicing when they perform? Our terms for engagement might misrepresent the nature of engagement. Are truck drivers performing a service or practicing a skill in which they've yet to achieve full proficiency? I might expect flawless service from a performing practitioner but accept a few flaws from a Practicing one. The very term practitioner suggests someone practicing, the skilled practitioner supposedly the more experienced at Practicing rather than performing. Practicing, as anyone stuck with a clarinet in 4th grade understands, does not necessarily translate into immediate or even eventual perfection. One might become much more skilled at Practicing than they ever become at performing, as every garage band member can attest. And it might well be that every performance serves as a simple extension of Practicing, albeit in some different context. Singing in the shower might prepare someone to perform on a stage, but the situations hardly compare.

Practicing seems necessary but not predictive.
I've been Practicing writing for decades without but rarely feeling terribly proficient at the actual production. I seem to need to relearn many aspects after inconveniently forgetting them, a process more akin to churning than actually, finally learning. A kind of convection occurs when Practicing where rote routine permits fresh insight to join in, producing approximations of intentions without necessarily satisfying them. With more Practicing, some prior approximations fall away while fresh ones fill in, and over time, the resulting performance might significantly shift. No two performances seem very much the same, and each seems to find some fresh imperfection worthy of ironing out with some future work. Practicing seems like traveling without ever actually arriving anywhere.

The innate irresolution could drive any practitioner to utter distraction, failing to find the underlying purpose within the effort. If perfection isn't the object, does that mean that mediocrity must be? Certainly something south of perfection. The ear growing ever more finely attuned to imperfection with Practicing hardly encourages even more emphatic Practicing. The more one tries, the further accomplishment flies away and perhaps the more the practitioner comes to understand that mastery could never have been in any cards. Forever approaching, never arriving, the Practicing practitioner understands Zero's paradoxes better than Zeno probably ever did, though I suppose Zeno was a Practicing paradoxer, too. Aren't we all?

We most certainly have a Practicing President, though he exemplifies what happens when Practicing devolves into parody. Presume mastery, and parody reliably results. Humbly enter the practice room, leaving ample space for ineptness and deep disappointment, and bring more courage than might seem strictly necessary. Pack a light lunch of foolhardiness, too, because before the session's through, you'll need the nourishment only a fool could fully appreciate. Show up late if you want to, though tardiness will only delay the punishment as well as any unlikely gratification. Play a scale or two, warm up by stoking your ego with what you already know you know how to do. You'll be needing the resulting self-esteem when tackling that next inspiration. Even when in ensemble, each practitioner practices alone, every time. Try to leave your resentments behind, because nobody ever finds satisfaction dragging those behind them.

Discovery demands that only fools engage. Wise ones, those already full of themselves, need not apply. A certain innocence fueled by a deep uncertainty simply must accompany if any progress's to be made. Some fresh instance lurks, never in its usual hiding place, but always someplace else. Try not to lull yourself asleep overmuch. Should you doze, you might miss the emergent mystery seemingly placed there especially for you to stumble over and tumble into. You might well come to learn something upsetting to your world view, but world view's change. Simply begin again, just as if you hadn't already exceeded the warranted mileage on this chassis. You're not actually going anywhere, anyway, JustPracticing.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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