There was a typo in my last post.
It wasn’t wabi sabi. It wasn’t a glimpse into the eternal, like the cracked tone of Coltrane. It wasn’t Monk, trying to play the notes between the black and white keys of the piano. It wasn’t Baryshnikov on a bare, studio floor, rehearsing a Merce Cunningham piece without music.
It was a typo.
This typo had me up at 3am. Its as if Orwell’s ghost was scowling over my shoulder.
Here’s what I wrote:
‘He did this with such a quiet joy and love that is hard to explain.’
Here’s what I should have written:
‘He did this with such a quiet joy and love that it was hard to explain.’
‘He did this with a quiet joy and love that was hard to explain.’
There’s other ways I could write this sentence but you get the idea.
A typo is a glitch and can be a signifier of many things: being sloppy or careless or too harried and busy, or a simple failure of normal process. It can mean having a different type of cognitive process such as dyslexia.
A typo can be our signifier, our personal signature, a fingerprint, a prism, our way of expressing and reflecting back the world we see.
My typo was due to a disruption in normal process. Like my movement practice, I usually try to do some kind of writing every day. For me the secret sauce has always been consistency; turning up and doing the work, a bit every day.
I’ll work on a piece and get it into some sort of shape and leave it ‘fallow’ for a while, then come back to it. There’s then a process of polishing and editing to ferret out the typos (I winced when I wrote that). My wife can be a ferocious editor. We argue points of grammar but she is usually right. Often she’ll like to get hold of things and wrangle them before they go out into the world.
Not this time. We are in the middle of a ‘Grand Tour’ to introduce our young teenage kids to Europe. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting. We’d been out and about in Paris and London trying to absorb everything. I thought I’d try to squeeze out a blog post during a pause in Barcelona. I felt pressured trying to finalise and upload it first thing, before the family rose and the chaos began. Lack of sleep and a slow and intermittent internet connection didn’t help.
Is that an excuse for sloppy work?
This is where typos are interesting. We seek perfection in our work but paradoxically, also seek imperfection. Culturally, we celebrate perfected imperfection. The way someone moves, writes or interprets something ‘just so’. We recognise the ‘just so’ when there is a deep resonance with our own experience. It’s an expression of our shared humanity.
A typo can be a blessing that leads to a new idea or a new way of thinking about a technique or phrase. It can be a pathway way to solving a technical problem.
A classical musician strives for perfection through a form of virtuosity that is seamless and flawless, where one’s virtuosity enables a transcendence of technique so a composer’s vision and the musician’s interpretation of that vision form a partnership to enables insight and transcendence.
Jazz musicians are seekers through improvisation. John Coltrane practised incessantly, 10-12 hours a day for years. He created a sound that was perfectly imperfect, a fractured and searching tone, a sound that disturbed, that glimpsed the eternal or whose beauty could make you cry. Coltrane’s stream of consciousness phrases weren’t typos.
Then there is what I would call ‘unconscious perfection’. The ease with which a master tradesperson creates, places and finishes their materials, it’s a form of perfect imperfection. There is unselfconsciousness about the way their work is realised and achieved through decades of daily practise. They don’t labour under the label of ‘artist’ or ‘creative’.
In movement we are seeking not just personal expression but ultimately, to achieve a lightness and joy by doing, a unification of breath and movement. We seek freedom from the paradox of our daily lives - the existential, by striving for the eternal in our practice.
The difference between a ‘just so’ movement and something ordinary is incremental and subtle yet takes a lifetime to render.
But the writer can’t have typos. They can’t have the seams showing in their work. The wabi-sabi is in the tone, style, rhythm, idiom and insight of the language.
So no grand illusions about my last post,
It was just a typo.