The Thursday Thesis - 29/03/2018
In the course of the last 18 years teaching people to play guitar and make music, I’ve become familiar (not in the biblical sense, you understand) with an exotic beast: The Unicorn of Cleverness.
Such is the beauty and power of The Unicorn of Cleverness that both students and myself have been lured off the path of simplicity and elegance by this scintillating creature.
Whenever The Unicorn of Cleverness puts in its appearance...“Ooh, look – a Unicorn!” we cry, with glee.
But here’s the thing, the moment a Unicorn prances into our heads, then “POOF!” rational thought goes down the pub for a swift loosener and a bag of scratchings: and it’s all downhill from there.
And we are always looking for Unicorns, you know.
At this point I’d like to go on record as stating that I have nothing against Unicorns per se. I’d go so far as to say that one of my best friends is a Unicorn, but “she’s not the Unicorn you’re looking for”, as Obi Won would have put it.
But Unicorns are really intellectual vermin: an infestation of the psyche. Here’s the problem: when we are learning something new, exploring a new idea, we can too often presume the presence of some esoteric or special quality one needs to advance into competence – that’s our Unicorn.
Our lack of skill and understanding makes us fill in the blanks with The Unicorn of Cleverness
And nowhere is this more prevalent than in “The Arts” – music, literature, painting and the like – the domains of talent and inspiration.
It’s all bollocks, of course. The Unicorn we’ve been lured into believing in is nothing more than a swaybacked old mare with a carrot stuck on her forehead, hyped and puffed-up beyond recognition.
I posit thus: there is no such thing as special talent or inspiration - everything is learned, and everything is trainable.
Ever see a baby, newborn and screaming, reach for a paintbrush?
So much for the “born artist”, the “innate gift” and the “talented genius”.
Everything is learned, and everything is learnable.
So, logically, I have a problem with the presumption of Talent and the pretensions of The Arts with a capital “A”. Some practitioners of The Arts would have you believe in their special gifts and their
uncommon inspirations – their Unicorns of Cleverness, which are available to you at a knock-down price, of course.
In lieu of understanding that technical skill, willingness to fail, and airtight self-confidence, we fall in love with the toxic myth of Talent: better known as The Unicorn of Cleverness.
Many of my students have spent decades believing in Unicorns, and will fight like tigers to prevent anyone taking that belief away.
I ‘m a teacher.
I slay Unicorns
© Neil Cowmeadow 2018
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