“Politics is the art of the possible.”
Otto von Bismark
I’ve always been fascinated by this quote, attributed to the 19th Century German politician known as the Iron Chancellor. On the one hand it recognises how human interactions, especially when they involve matters of power and social importance are always an extended dance of improvised negotiation.
But, on the other hand, there’s more than a hint of pragmatism in this quote as well – it offers no hint of idealism or even much scope for ethical commitment.
Here And Now, In This Place
Still, in the past year, I’ve often wondered what “the art of the possible” means in terms of creativity. I guess because so much of my circumstances in the past, nearly two years in Singapore, have been less than I had hoped for and different to what I had realistically expected.
I find myself, day after day, saying “well let’s focus on what is possible, here and now, in this place, with what I have.”
Keep The Project Moving
The interview above, with music producer Chris Lord-Alge is pure gold for anyone interested in how creativity works in the field of music. Lord-Alge is very open about what it takes to work with people in a high-pressure musical environment. One idea he riffs on a number of times basically says, “there are no rules, just keep the project going.”
It hit home for me, since I have lost much of this month (so far) to a rather nasty ear infection. I had hoped to be recording new original work right through March, but instead I found myself almost unable to hear out of my right ear for most of the last two weeks. It’s clearing up now, but I’ve had to adjust my goals, since I not only couldn’t hear well, but I was prone to sudden spells of dizziness and headaches as well.
I refocussed by making a list of things I could do given this condition. So I cranked through a bunch of less than glamorous tidying and administrative tasks. I also set up new folders and templates for the recording I will be doing now my ear has healed.
Another Small Example
Yesterday I found myself in the Eunos Industrial District here in Singapore (a fascinating place I will revist and photograph). I was there to pick up some fibreglass material, which I am today putting into enclosures to help balance the sound in my studio.
I’m blessed with a wonderful sounding room here in Singapore. A high, asymmetrically racked wood panelled ceiling does a lot to dampen and control the sound. But, I wanted to improve on it a little more.
I had tried to buy some material from Owens Corning, since the perfectionist in me wanted the best dampening on the market. But, the local distributor was less than helpful. I needed 10-12 sheets (120x60cm), but the distributor would only sell to me if I ordered a whole container full and paid up front.
So I settled on the material I could find locally, despite the internal struggle and desire to get what I wanted from overseas, whatever the cost. The art of the possible.
There’s a lesson that’s unravelling itself here, about the importance of momentum, of the day to day battle to keep original work alive and moving forward. It’s also a lesson about the way we speak to ourselves, about being kind to our muse and inner motivations when circumstances are unhelpful, about learning to say “well I can’t do that, but I can do this instead.”