Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ingredients

 A recipe is an instructive list of ingredients needed to produce some particular result.  These outcomes are often associated with food in one form or another; say a pie or a casserole or even something more ambitious as Beef Wellington.  But it would also be appropriate to think of another set of ingredients, say plot, characters, and theme, as constituents of a story.

Formula is every bit as instructive as recipe.  You could consider it the DNA of the rules governing behavior of a system.  You could also consider formula as an entity that leads to an anticipated result.  The result itself may vary in quantity, just as the results of a recipe might produce a larger pie or casserole.  Plot, characters, and theme are ingredients that sound more at home in a reference to a formula than to a recipe.  But both terms produce expectations provided enough ingredients are used and few extraneous ingredients are introduced.

Experienced chefs and individuals who are often referred to as natural-born cooks seem to have in common an understanding of the particular chemistry or relationship of ingredients humans have been ingesting for millennia.

Storytellers are on occasion regarded as natural renderers of dramatic event because they seem to know when to pause, how much of a particular ingredient to use at a time, and how many ingredients—in particular characters—a given story can accommodate without losing its consistency.

Skillful chefs and cooks, writers and dramatists are often spoken of as knowing the tricks of their craft.  In some cases, these individuals are thought to have discovered or mastered secrets known to those who are born knowing their craft, or those who have achieved skills seemingly without trying.

These individuals, whether their expertise is culinary or dramatic, are often regarded as having magical qualities, by which is meant a more intense insight or an uncommon skill for combining seemingly disparate elements.  There is no magic, only the fact that some are more skilled at what they do than others.  For magic, read “recognition,” the skilled chef or dramatist recognizing early on the radiant chemistry that suggests the blending of elements and the guidance required to bring them to some tangible outcome.

What seems like magic or secret is not so much magical or occult as it is fun.  Some individuals, who appear on the surface to have preternatural skills at cooking or writing, possibly even both, have in fact a well-developed capacity for enjoyment.  Go ahead; call it by its name—fun.  Often these individuals will tell you what they do is hard work.  Believe them; it is hard work being good at something, even if you have skills for it.  Do not believe them when they tell you they dread it, that the performance has become increasingly more difficult.  They are also enjoying themselves by making it seem that what they do is a chore.

There is some genome in the chef and the writer that influences its host to behave as though everything that emerges is an act of transparent spontaneity.  It is no such thing.  Even the spontaneous, the improvised, have to be rehearsed, practiced, performed.

Even you take some pleasure in making your quips and puns seem made up on the spot.  They are rehearsed at all hours, in all circumstances. You often chance upon a pun or a spoonerism that causes you to chortle out loud, but having done so, you carefully set it aside, waiting patiently for the moment when you can bring it forth as though—voila—you have only now come upon it.

It is fun enough to do actual improvisation, getting into punning contests with suitable competitors.  This is an adult version of child’s play; it is developing muscle memory.

Being good at something is pure ecstasy provided you truly enjoy the thing.  It is some sort of cosmic revenge to excel at something for which you have no heart, no passion, no hunger.  To care for a thing is only effective if there is a soupcon of yearning and passion, which bring with them the recognition that you can never achieve the level of expertise you seek.

You belong to a species where a good many individuals wish to arrive at instant excellence without the work.  They are immediately recognizable.  There are others within the species who wish only to be entertained, passive in their wish to provide the entertainment for themselves.  There are also those who strive, their outcomes predicated on carrying successful performance to the attention of those who wish to be entertained.

You fit into this calculus by having taken some steps toward the ability to enjoy and entertain yourself—then to take it public, for the consequences.


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