Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shaping your life to your goals

More than 10 years ago on a newsgroup or mailing list (I don't remember which) I was discussing scrapbooking--you know, cutting up your photos and combining them with colored papers, stickers, and pens into attractive pages that tell stories. Some historian or archivist jumped into the conversation to deplore this practice, telling us that we were evil and moaning that it would someday make her job (and the jobs of people like her) harder because sometimes it's those very peripheral details that tell the most for history, and snipping the photos was decontextualizing them. And she was right--it will make their job harder.

But she wanted everyone who was scrapbooking to arrange their lives to accommodate her life goal, learning things from photos. The rest of us had completely different goals in life, and cutting up our photos aided our goals. Once I recognized that her perspective wasn't mine, it was easy to understand but dismiss her concerns.

I don't believe you need to drop everything and figure out your goals in order to shape your life to them. I mostly work in the peripheries myself; straight ahead is an unknowable vortex, but all around the edges and in the depths are the pieces that flitter and vibrate and soak up information and practice, and aggregate into the collage that is my goals. I'm making choices all the while that perambulate, dance around, spiral in and out towards my goals. And when I discover them, I'm usually already far into the practice of achieving them.

If you aren't sure what your goal is, maybe you are approaching it cattercorner or widdershins. Maybe you're sidling up to it for good reason.

1 comment:

Kami said...

You're on the money! The historian is saying that cutting up photographs makes her job and the jobs of future historians harder, but why should any craft have to respect the needs of future historians anyway? I suppose folks could use technology and keep the originals stored somewhere safe, but who is going to pay (either in $$ or space in their home or a safety deposit box or whatever) for the chance that maybe one out of thousands of images they probably own will have some significance in the future? More than likely most of the stuff that gets cut up and put into scrapbooks won't have any bearing on future research. The scrapbooks themselves, however, may have considerable value. I think they're wonderful works of art and will, in time, reveal styles, influences and movements in community art just as quilts (which requires cut up fabric--I thought that might be a fun comparison) and other forms of art have intrinsic value that exceeds (I'd hazard, though I really don't know) the worth of the whole bolts of cloth from which they originated.