I am reading, and re-reading a book titled, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Taleb writes, in the first line of the prologue, "Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire." He advocates that we use randomness, uncertainty and chaos, rather than hide from them. I have been contemplating, of course, what this means in terms of my writing and my art.
This is admittedly a new spin on Nietzsche's idea: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” And yes, I realize that this is also the title and the premise of a recent Kelly Clarkson song, so the idea is not a new one. What is new, at least to me, is the way Taleb explains the concept. He says, "Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shock and stays the same; the antifragile gets better."
In a lot of ways this has become a call to action for me. Instead of waiting until my life is predictable and controlled (a farcical idea at best), I am much better off just jumping in and creating, thus embracing my incomplete understanding of things.
And the process of making something is often a solitary one, which can make it even scarier. This is why we have writing groups, artist's co-operatives, etc. The common struggle makes us feel more capable. Yet it one's willingness to venture out alone, with an antifragile frame of mind, the attempt to make a new thing--a NEW THING, that throws us out of stasis!!! It is a risky proposition, one that can set the artist or writer up as a target. I am reminded of Baudelaire's poem "The Albatross" from Fleurs du Mal.
Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew
Catch albatrosses, those vast sea birds
That indolently follow a ship
As it glides over the deep, briny sea.
Scarcely have they placed them on the deck
Than these kings of the sky, clumsy, ashamed,
Pathetically let their great white wings
Drag beside them like oars.
That winged voyager, how weak and gauche he is,
So beautiful before, now comic and ugly!
One man worries his beak with a stubby clay pipe;
Another limps, mimics the cripple who once flew!
The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky
Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman;
When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers,
His giant wings prevent him from walking.