Tuesday, September 8, 2015

One Big Answer

Derek Lowe's blog, In The Pipeline, has this recent post: That One Big Answer. His blog is awesome, influential, important, and about chemistry. You probably ought to read it.

Anyways, his post cites this wonderful poem from Archilocus:

The fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one.
One good one.

(translation from the equally wonderful Richmond Lattimore.) Derek goes on to talk about the human tendency to look for One Big Answer. The single object, fact, drug, therapy, that will solve all our problems. Or at least a lot of them. Or at least make a lot of things better.

Thus it is everywhere, thus it is in photography. The camera that will make me great, the lens, the mentor, the workshop, the class, the book.

They'll all help, most likely. None of them are going to make you great. What might make you great, eventually, is a massive accretion of things. Bits of gear that enable you, bits of knowledge, ideas you've had, this person who inspired you in this way, and that person in that.

You might find pivotal things, some small element that has an outsized impact. Don't be fooled, it wasn't the Pocket Wizard or the 85/1.4 or that one portfolio review that changed things. The single item was but the catalyst. The change was wrought over time by a thousand tiny things, a reef of tiny things that was poised to shift already.

There's no royal road. You just put in the time and the effort. You think about stuff. You collect ideas and objects.

But be happy. This just means that you can stop looking for the One Big Answer. Don't worry, when the reef of little bits and pieces is ready to shift, the right new bit will turn up, and the pivot will occur. It'll feel like you found the One Big Answer, unexpectedly. And now, you're somewhere else. You're not finished. The accretion, the occasional massive unexpected shifts, and ultimately the growth and evolution, it's all a continuous process that does not end.

Have fun along the way.

1 comment:

  1. One Big Answer puts me in mind of something I read by H. L. Mencken, talking about solutions to human problems (and I'm paraphrasing here) that the answers to the vast majority of human problems are neat, plausible and wrong.