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Mastery is

A master is always in touch with and completely facing reality. This is different from being a masterful person who is just good at things.

A master may not be that masterful with most things. As John Cage once pointed out, there is a famous and highly respected Japanese archery master who has never once hit a target.

I have eaten in sushi bars where the chef seemed to slap some fish on a plate and hand it over, yet the effect was more masterful than the most elaborate and impressive creations of other sushi chefs create who were considered "masters."

As our friend Al Hartman says, "A true master transcends technical proficiency."

I shouldn't be too cruel here, because a certain degree of mastery is required in order to be a professional sushi chef in the first place. I understand you spend the entire first two years of your apprenticeship learning how to cook rice.

On the other hand, it's certainly conceivable that someone could spend two years, or even a lifetime, learning how to do something and not emerge a master.

Stephen King reportedly hated Stanley Kubrick's version of his novel The Shining. It was remade for TV in 1997 and was much praised, including by King himself. The new version was quite good. Many people thought it was more accessible and true to the story. But in the Kubrick version, when you saw the typewritten page with "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" repeated over and over, the margins of the page did not match the margins of the typewriter. You may not have noticed it - but you knew it. That's mastery.

Mastery is beyond virtuosity. Mastery is godly. Virtuosity is interactive.

Mastery is being, virtuosity is doing.

To be a master, all one has to do is be; anyone can be a master.

Not many people are virtuosos, but mastery is attainable by all. You can be a master flower arranger without being a virtuoso flower arranger. This is one of the things that's so wonderful about the Orientals. They know and operate from the premise that the real masters very often are not virtuosos.

People who develop virtuosity in the process of becoming masters confuse the two and are deflected from becoming masters by their own interaction with the issue of virtuosity. Virtuosity is seductive. Mastery is not; it is intimidating. You
can be intimidated by your own mastery. Many people are afraid of their mastery and they run away from it. If you have gotten this far, however, you are probably moving toward yours.

Thank you,


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Copyright 1996 World Harmonic Unified Ministers
Revised 03/18/10