The skill stays in your hands

14.53, Tuesday 22 Sep 2020

I think about this Twitter thread from @kimbert in 2017 a bunch:

A thing from art school that helped my drawing/comics practice a lot is I took a ceramics course. It taught me a lot about disposability.

It’s about accepting that your pieces can break in the kiln, sometimes because somebody else’s creation shatters.

She says: But your skill + practice + vision still stays in your hands and your mind and you just quietly make another one, faster and usually better than the one that broke.

There’s another bit of advice that’s been in my head recently:

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking, “Will this make me happy?”, but “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?”

Which is a similar approach to risk, I think, in a way.

An absolute age ago, I was visiting San Francisco and - for some reason that now escapes me - I decided to get my Tarot cards read at one of the grotty tourist trap shops, just off Union Square.

I’m not a “believer” but, you know, open mind to new perspectives and all that.

It was a memorable experience. The psychic was texting on her phone a bunch. She asked if I had pets, and said it was good that I did because it was good for my energies. She was getting agitated about something in the texts so I suggested she get a pet too, but she snapped at me about the size of her apartment and that it wouldn’t be feasible, living in the city.

Anyway so the cards were read, my fortune told, and she gave me three pieces of advice.

One, I should phone my mum more.

Which is solid for most people, I feel. Smart for the cards to open with this.

Second: Take the easy road and not the hard road.

This was a surprise. I was expecting the cards to recommend I push on through, give me support and strength, etc. Everyone’s got some shit or another going on, and it would have been an easy win for the cards to focus their cosmic recommendations on surviving the challenge because it’ll all be worth it, and so on and so forth.

But like the recent advice, discussed here, about appreciating hedonism, this was counterintuitive. This is the Protestant work ethic in me speaking, drummed into me at school, but surely everything worthwhile is hard? The path the success and happiness is necessarily paved with struggle? Maybe not, say the cards.

Maybe taking the easy road is good because, yes, things break, but it’s fine, take it in your stride and remember the skill stays in your hands.


But I come back to this periodically, because at the time I dismissed it as ridiculous, and now I ask myself: ok, so what if taking the easy road is genuinely the life advice I need, and so how should I interpret that and what are the implications?

Third: I should move some things around.

At this point I was frustrated from the texting and all the rest and sarcastically said, “what, like the sofa,” and the psychic snapped “yes if you want,” and that was that.

As it happens I did move the sofa when I got back home. It opened up the sight lines between the rooms and caught the summer sun.


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