my job is absurd

by     /    June 17, 2011   

My job is absurd. When I stop to think about it, what I do for a living is simply, utterly absurd. Today I spent hours staring at the seed from a maple tree. Not the whole seed, mind you, but a fragment of that seed. A tiny curling edge along that fragment of that seed, no more than a millimeter in size. I stared and photographed that tiny edge over and over. I adjusted the lights a touch, adjusted the camera a smidge, and photographed some more. This is my job. This is how I make art, and it is utterly absurd.

The key is to not stop and think about it. The key is to just get in a zone and DO IT. When I stop to think about it, I see how absurd, how silly this all is. I start to question myself: what the HECK am I doing? I begin to realize that I just spent an entire work day staring at a little tiny fragment of a maple seed, trying to capture its portrait as if it was some kind of celebrity. When I allow that to happen, that’s when the art-making stops.

The key, then, is to not stop. To not think. To just do. To surrender yourself to the act of creation, and let it drag you willy-nilly where ever it wishes. No matter how foolish it makes you look, you have to hang on and just go with it. It’s much like how Douglas Adams describes learning to fly:

There is an art… or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.

He continues with one of the best descriptions of art-making I have every heard:

The first part is easy. All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it’s going to hurt. That is, it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard. Clearly, it is the second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.

And that my friends, is what I do for a living. I try to fling myself at the ground and try my best to miss. Absurd.

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Comments on 'my job is absurd'

Bozena  (June 17th, 2011):

No, it isn’t absurd. At least you were focused on something really important. If you spend the day running for the celebrity, now, that’s an absurd 🙂
Keep it going!

Angela Fehr  (June 17th, 2011):

Years ago I copied Adams’ description of flight – so exactly what my dreams had depicted!
It’s a wonderful life, to live learning to see – I think that’s what art is.

Mark  (June 22nd, 2011):

Great post Daniel.