5 Thoughts: Informed Appreciation

1. IT’S ONE THING TO LIKE something. It’s something quite else to know why you like it — and how it came to be.

2. “Informed appreciation” is the key to that knowing. Only when you can comprehend the effort, expense, skill and moxie involved in making anything — dance, music, sequential or static art, acting, a useful tool, a good meal — can you be said to have truly grasped its essence.

3. This is especially true of those things that are done so well that they look easy. Take Dick Van Dyke’s 1960s-era physical comedy, or Gene Kelly’s soft-shoe; it’s as though their bones are made of rubber, if indeed they have any bones at all. Or Beethoven’s symphonies, composed by a deaf man but elegantly summoning up nameless emotions. Or the original, handbuilt Star Wars and Star Trek spaceships, costumes, props and sets (see: “kitbashing“). Or even Jacques Pepin cooking an omelet.

4. In this age of seamless computer-generated imagery, it’s easy to lose sight of how important Informed Appreciation is. No matter how well-crafted photorealistic CGI is (and some of it is quite breathtaking and difficult to pull off), it always tends to look like photorealistic CGI. There’s a sort of sameness about it that makes it difficult to distinguish one application from another; the novelty has worn off. It gets taken for granted.

5. Informed Appreciation is the opposite of taking something for granted. And the more you immerse yourself in why an art or craft works the way it does, the more complete — and wonder-filled — will be your picture of the Universe.

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