السبت، 11 نوفمبر 2017

You don't need to reinvent the wheel.

You just have to reproduce it.

Surprisingly, that is a common sentence I've heard uttered as an undergrad from professors, lecturers and tutors trying to reassure us when it comes to essays. The aim of this course, they would say, is to make you as familiar as possible with the mechanics of a wheel. They are not interested in our pompous efforts of originality. Instead, they care about accuracy, precision and thoroughness, rightfully so. After all, wheels are meant to take us somewhere and they work perfectly the way they are.

But to me, it's stifling. I do not know how the wheel works, and to be honest, I'm not very interested in learning much about the process or mechanics behind it. As long as the purpose of the invention of is clear, and as long as I am able to somewhere using a wheel, I am happy. But this is exactly how I mistake myself to have understood how a wheel works, because essentially I understand the purpose... and I believe it to be enough.

But I'm wrong.

I'm as wrong as K was when she raised her hand in class a dull day in first year, before I got to know her, asking if it was okay to be original: to make the wheel out of glass, or to change its shape completely, rendering it a triangle... only to be answered 'the wheel should stay as it is. changing the colour might gain you some extra marks, but that is not expected of you just yet'. She tried to make it out of glass anyway, and stumbled. Her wheel broke before she even thought to install it. She then protested that the tools she was given were inadequate before denouncing the wheel a lie, the factories that make it exploitative, and the notion of 'going somewhere' a conspiracy!

I'm just like her. I was like her.

I now understand, that in order to 'invent' something, you need to appreciate how other things work. It took me some time to come to accept that, especially as someone who values their ability to be original and creative... but they're right. I now must focus on reproducing, on understanding the mechanics of things that already exists.

Picasso did it, didn't he? He learnt the rules before he broke them. He became part of the tradition and then changed it entirely from the inside.
M talked about that on a walk once, saying it was important to learn the way the world works because it is more rewarding to knowingly break the rules than to do so as a mistake. I nearly got hit by a car... I was ignoring the traffic lights. To M, I was being reckless. M explained if I was paying attention to the lights, and willingly walked in defiance, it would be worth it if I was hit by a car.

I am no Picasso, nor nearly as brilliant as M, nor even as brave as K when she rejected the rules and lived with the consequences.

But I need to start somewhere. No need to prove my originality at this point. All I need to do is prove my ability to understand and synthesize processes. I guess that is my blind-spot: I do not like processes and I think of them as being boring, but without them, original ideas may never come to life. If I am to one day reinvent the wheel, I must first learn what the first one looked like.... if only just to ensure I do not end up making a copy of whatever already exists.

I will reinvent the wheel... just not until I learn how to reproduce it.