Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Musing on Monk
Thelonious Monk once told a musician that he was "making the wrong mistakes." Think about that. Some mistakes in music are closer to success than others, apparently. So, making some mistakes is part of the discipline of learning to find the grove, to finding one's own voice in the band.
This is true in the world of ideas as well. Nietzsche said that the mistakes of great thinkers were more valuable than the petty truths of pedants (my paraphrase). While we ought to aim at truth through the virtuous employment of our reason, we cannot entirely eliminate falsehoods, fallacies, and confusions along the way. That risk is simply part of improving, something essential to jazz.
While there if a time to be quiet and say nothing (The Book of Proverbs has much to advise on this), there is a time to experiment with ideas (if the setting is right). You might even make "the right mistakes." Then, after more time in the woodshed, you may transcend the mistakes entirely and ascend into truth.