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Artisans and Tides
Being anchored when the tide goes out.
Next week, I’m spending a week in Wales, in a part where the internet only visits periodically, so as all my posts are freshly cooked, I’m not sure how many there will be next week, back to normal after that.
Rock pools are a good metaphor for change. Flood tides bring in the new, and ebb tides take away any of the old unanchored residents to somewhere new and unknown; life in the rock pool changes. The cycle is predictable, even if the consequences for those in the rock pool are not.
That is what this time feels like, as we sense the incoming heavy Spring tide as climate, ecology, and technology combine and recognise that, whatever the rock pool hierarchy wishes, it will be turbulent.
We will not know what the new temporary normal will look like until the tide has gone out again. Not only is that fine, but it is also necessary - if ever our pool needed refreshing, it’s now.
It’s quite instructive to observe the tide deniers doing their work, from those in the “National Conservatism Conference” doing their impressions of King Cnut’s advisers telling him he could stem the tide on command, to the flood of advice on social media from consultants and job seekers whose current skills are about to be washed away.
What matters to us, though, is our ability to adapt to the new ecosystem of our existing rock pool or establish ourselves in whatever new shore we find ourselves washed up on.
I think that requires a very particular relationship with our work.
“In good work, we ocupy a frontier between what has been done, and what is about to be done, both giving almost an equal sense of satisfaction." Three Marriages, David Whyte. p309
Delegating a sense of satisfaction regarding the impact of our work to an organisation is a significant risk. The satisfaction we derive from our individual effort, whether or not others recognise that, is like a little sac of nutrients that keep us alive and healthy as we get caught up in irresistible tidal flows. It grounds us, and gives us somewhere to begin when we find ourselves somewhere new. Many of the organisations we work for will get dissolved by the tide, and if we do not have our own sense of purpose, or capability and contribution, our careers be dissolved with them.
As Artisans, our work is our own, as individual as we are, and belongs to no one else. Whatever our profession, unless we commit to the work that makes us artisans, with a distinctive work signature, we are likely to end up as “resources” defined by location, demand and price, producing work we have no relationship to.
It’s easy to think that the calm of our own individual rock pool when things are going well is the natural order of things, but it is, of course, temporary.
“You gotta challenge all assumptions. If you don’t, what is doctrine on day one becomes dogma forever after.” John Boyd
Much of the artistic process involves ignoring rules, letting go of rules, undermining rules, and rooting out rules we didn’t know we were following.
The tide will always come in. Whether we find ourselves in the same rock pool when the tide goes out, or somewhere else entirely, life will be different.
Artisans sense the tide earlier than most and work to harness it, not stem it.
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