Monday, December 13, 2010

Laws of Making 9: The Highest Power is to Finish. The Greatest Wisdom is to Know When to Finish.

Making Monday

The third Law of Transcendence is that The Highest Power is to Finish, and The Greatest Wisdom is to Know When to Finish.

Finishing is implied by the Second Law of Transcendence, Devotion, but it is an under-appreciated and poorly understood element of Wisdom. The final step of the Buddha's enlightenment, for example, was his realization that he had completed the final step to enlightenment.

Our culture is fixated on beginnings. If you visit a book store, you'll find shelf after shelf devoted to getting a job or starting a business. There are very few books on leaving a job or ending a business. We enjoy a collective myopia with the comforting belief that everything we'll be fine and we'll know what to do if we can only solve our present problems.

A related problem is that in much of our experience, certainly at school and often a work, someone else has defined what it means to finish. With that training, we tend to think of projects in terms of assignments and gauge our efforts based on the "grade" we hope to receive.

Of course, saying that you should judge a thing finished based on your own criteria is not a license to ignore mentors, coaches, and teachers. There's a place, particularly in training situations, where it is right and proper to conform to criteria established by someone else. Rather, it's a challenge to transcend them by developing your own wisdom and your understanding, as a maker, of the integrity of the thing being made. True makers are not copy machines: unperturbed by the terror of the blank page, they live to bring new things into the universe. That's why the First Law of Transcendence is Vision.

The Law of Completion is the complement of the Law of Vision. Specifically, you must have some idea what finished means when you begin a project. Not that you must know exactly how it will end, but you must have a clear enough vision of where you're going that you can recognize the place when you get there.

Finally, and most difficult of all, when the project is complete, you must let it take its rightful place in the universe and move on. This is the transcendence of the makers.

Image: Bill Longshaw /