House Tearmainn


by on Apr.25, 2013, under Mastery

I’ve struggled with the concept of mastery since I took up D/s as a full-time lifestyle coming up on 8 years ago. I had a wonderful flash of insight recently that really solidified the concept in my head. I shared it with other dominant / ownership oriented types and they seemed to find it useful so I thought I would share it here.

In the simplest form I see mastery in a particular realm as knowing what you want and knowing how to get it. With some more nuance I think it shakes out to this:

  • Having a vision for what you want to create
  • Having the right materials for the job
  • Having the tools and knowledge to bring the vision to fruition
  • Having the experience to improvise as unexpected circumstances arise
  • Having the will to see the project through to a fine finish

I like the example of carpentry. Most anyone can make a wooden chest. If I tried it I’d probably get the wrong wood, measure once, cut three times, go buy some more wood, and end up with something functional, but not quite right in many ways. It wouldn’t last, and I probably wouldn’t want it to.

A master carpenter can make a wooden chest that is an object of beauty and utility. They know the best wood to select, how to mold it and join it together in a seamless way, and how to finish it so that even if it is something simple and utilitarian the eye is drawn to the details of how everything works together just so. My grandfather could do that and I’ve always been impressed at how his work stands up though he’s been dead for many years.

Mastery in an owner/property relationship strikes me as similar. Being a master, to me, means knowing what you get out of the relationship, knowing what you need from a partner, being able to use the skills and tools at your disposal to craft both the person and circumstances toward the desired outcome, being able to adapt with grace when the world throws you a curve ball, and sticking it out through the rough patches to a clean end. If a carpenter is someone who creates  and repairs things made from wood, then I see an owner as someone who creates and maintains lifestyle authority exchange relationships.

Of course not every project that the master carpenter starts ends up being a masterwork. Sometimes the plan was flawed, or the materials, or circumstance intervened and the project is never finished. So too with our relationships. My grandfather may not have been a master carpenter, but if something didn’t come together the way he wanted he wouldn’t toss everything out in a huff. He would carefully take it apart, salvage what he could, and try again or put it aside for another project. Except for the one that was in progress when he died.

I know that mapping complex human interactions onto something as (comparatively) simplistic as carpentry loses a lot of important nuance, but I think it also it gives me something to look to when I need direction. I’ve heard people at the M/s Conference or MasT use various things (including carpentry) similarly, but it wasn’t until this flash of insight that I was truly able to feel the comparison in a way that my highly intuitive brain could grasp.

I’d like to make a quick note on self-mastery as well. This is something that comes up a lot, and I think also maps to what I said above. The difference being that instead of having your choice of materials and tools, you’ve got whatever’s in the workshop. In fact it’s more like building the workshop from whatever you’ve got on hand.

Most people who work at a craft never grow to be masters of that craft. Some people use this as justification that mastery is a journey, not a destination, which I think is partially true. After all, even a master carpenter can always learn to build something new. Nevertheless, I think there is a certain level of competency that says “given decent starting materials and their own set of tools, this person could make something beautiful”.

For what it’s worth, this is why I don’t use the title Master for myself. I master, the verb that indicates progress toward mastery. I am the master of pais, the job title. I am not a Master, but I think I am coming to understand what it means to be one, and why they are so highly regarded. More importantly I know that the love of the craft and my desire to make something beautiful will compel me to continue honing my skills, acquiring new tools, and forging new relationships for the rest of my life.

Thanks for reading. I don’t expect that there is much, if any, original thought here, but since this blog is a record of my process I wanted to mark the occasion. I hope you’ll respectfully share your thoughts, whether we agree or disagree.

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