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Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy, François Lemoyne, 1737
" … they'd come to understand and trust that the horse knows the way."

I believe, perhaps fallaciously, that I possessed when I was born every skill I later manifested. Contrary to the historical record, not even the KnowNothings ever actually knew nothing, not even those swearing to reelect our sorry excuse for a President can truthfully claim this state, for nothing's always been fundamentally unknowable and to claim otherwise only proves my point. I have not so much assimilated others' skills, but found ways to relate theirs to my own, nascent and previously knowable until after some small or huge revelation. I perceive this world as a network of invitations in constant struggle against the forces of formal education, which seem determined to claim ownership of knowledge and skill so that they might sell it for notoriety and profit. Knowledge, interestingly, also fails to qualify as knowable, though some certainly seem to exhibit clear possession. It might be that knowledge and even understanding possess us and not the other way around, once one's found fertile ground within to usefully relate to it.

If I would have had to know how to write before writing, I might have become an eternal student, Hell-bent on learning something unassimilatable by that means.
Writing, like perhaps every skill in life, seems to simply need to be first engaged in innocently, almost utterly ignorantly, whereupon some skill later emerges through iterative relating, never by simple assimilation of rules, techniques, or emulation. Even driving seems an extension of each driver's personality. Speaking, too, and cooking, nobody seems very much a font tapped from some previously empty vessel which became filled by some teacher or coursework. All teaching might amount to invitation and all studying, a process first of self-discovery followed not by mastery but by self-revelation. We only become who we always were, perhaps even more so.

The Muse, The Otter, and I were yesterday discussing what we each might want to be once we grow up. The Muse, as accomplished a person as I've ever known, suggested that the whole attraction of growing up has been losing its allure for her. I insisted that I've concluded that adulthood, as popularly characterized, seems a sorry promise I'm increasingly comfortable with never realizing. The Otter said that she's so distracted by getting through each day that she can't really see beyond each moment, as if allemanding her way forward. I reflected to myself that perhaps we only ever grow out. After all, we sometimes claim, as maturing, that we've out-grown something. How could we outgrow if we weren't first growing out rather than up? Something seems to be coming out of some sort of closet whenever we say we learn. Growing up seems altogether too single-dimensional. We're clearly more complex than that.

My birthday arrives on Wednesday when, as The Muse reminded me, I'll celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of my thirty-ninth birthday. I seem a completely different being now than I was then, with innumerable experiences come and forgotten. Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of my dear friend Jamie's death, which sparked a mindful day of reflection that we're all eventually out-going and that none of us end up amounting to nothing, though if any of us ever did, nobody could possibly know it due to the Fundamental Rule of the Unknowability of Nothing. We could not recognize it if we saw it, but then we'd never catch the barest glimpse of it. Nothing seems perfectly self-sealing, a substance existing only in someone's assertion of it; insubstantial ad infinitum.

My wise friend Franklin, when he taught people how to play guitar, always confided to his students that he'd advertised his services under false pretenses, for it would be them teaching themselves, with him providing invitations and encouragement. After her first lesson, The GrandOtter wrote her first original song. I would have wondered if I hadn't already known where that song had come from. I felt fairly certain that Franklin had not somehow implanted it within her. I also understood that one lesson does not necessarily a songwriter make. That song had perhaps always been there but unable to escape out into the world until an eleven year old girl held a guitar along with an ounce or so of freshly discovered inspiration as the result of a sincere invitation. Her heart had always sung, I suspect, but not having any convenient outlet, silently sang alone.

I too easily ascribe my own genius to somebody else, perhaps because I cannot otherwise explain manifestations of my own genius. I certainly stand on shoulders, Jamie's, Franklin's, and others', wise colleagues who somehow inspired me, though I honestly believe that I probably only inspired myself as a result of their humble invitations and insistent permissions, and probably not their knowledge. I called myself a teacher in my time, though the kind of teaching I performed insisted upon each student deciding for them self what they wanted to learn. I distracted the seekers by relating stories, at least one of which almost everyone seemed to relate to. Once that relationship began, I offered encouragement if asked or if it seemed absolutely necessary, but I mostly tried to stay out of my students' way. The old country doctor, returning from a late night house call, could sleep most of their way home because they'd come to understand and trust that the horse knows the way.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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