Friday, January 22, 2016

Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can't...


Those words, with an additional piquant phrase about those who teach "gym," were quite often expressed by unhappy students during my now distant high school days. How odd then to just have realized now that those words apply to me. And, moreover, that they are not necessarily an insult at all.

Let me explain...

Back in about 2000 the CEO of Ducati SpA, the famed Italian motorcycle builder, wrote me a personal letter thanking me for an article I'd researched (with my wife, Jan's, help), written and published on the web. In that letter he wrote that he'd passed that article along to the company's engineering department where he thought it would be of much value.

My response was basically one of amazement. In a word, "Whaaa?"

A short time later the company approached me again, this time the editor of their website, asking me to write a regular column for the site and also to make contributions to several of their up coming print publications.

Those things I gladly agreed to do. But, again, with more than a bit of amazement at the request.

In a short time -- again, so oddly to me -- my name and countenance was regularly being featured on their home page, and this led to my becoming a bit of celebrity among the "Ducatisti" as Ducati enthusiasts are known.

In 2002 I was invited to be the company's guest at s large international gathering called "World Ducati Week" being held in Misano, Italy, and while there I was from time to time called over the PA system to come to the Ducati Com tent -- often because someone wanted to have their photo taken with me.

Again my response was "Whaaa?"

Of course all this was a lot of fun. But it also seemed so odd to me! Here were people -- some of whom had skills and experience far beyond my own -- looking to be with me; to ask me questions. And then seemingly hanging on every word I spoke.

Why was this, I again wondered.  What was going on?

And now, more recently, something similar has started happening among some in the musical community.

Yes, I am a musician. I've played guitar and several other instruments for over fifty years.  But in truth my playing is, in my own judgment, at best mediocre. Yet my written expressions are coming to be seen as something of some value -- something to be shared -- my opinions of some special worth. And this in many cases by musicians with far greater gifts and abilities than I myself possess.

Again, I had to ask, what is happening here?

The answer, I have come to realize, is found in the quote that introduced this piece. "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

And with that realization has come the understanding that the ability to teach is itself its own gift.

Many of the most gifted people in every field do the wonderful things they do with little conscious understanding of what it is they are doing. They sense what needs to be done and simply do it, often with a grace and ease that is completely out of reach of the rest of us.

Ask such a gifted person how they do what they do and they will often just shrug their shoulders or give a look that suggests they don't even understand why they'd be asked the question. "Why, can't everyone?" they seem to say.

It doesn't matter what the field is.  For some it's art, music or dance. For others it's in science or technology. For yet others it's a special skill in sports. Or management and group organization.  For them the mastery of such things just comes naturally and with ease.

And for us?

For us even attempting to master such things is, and likely forever will be, an ongoing struggle.

And it is for this reason we also have come to value people who can teach. People who, though they themselves may not possess those special gifts, can understand them and help explain and give meaning to them.

So, yes, those who can, do. And those who can't?

They teach. There's nothing bad about that gift either.

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