What is Mastery?

Every so often, I like to take a late night walk on Moonlight Beach and get lost in thought.

Tonight, I asked, “What is mastery?”

I came up with an intellectual definition (as opposed to a spiritual, physical or emotional one). Mastery is being able to see the details within the big picture–not just the details or the big picture but both.

Van Gogh’s October 1888 painting, The Bedroom, has little pictures inside of the big picture. Here is one of them:

Painting on the wall of the Bedroom
Painting within a painting: On the wall of van Gogh’s the Bedroom.

Let’s become intricately familiar with the brush strokes, the colors, and the shapes of this little picture. Does this mean that we have gained a masterful understanding of the Bedroom? No, we only understand the painting on the wall.

Perhaps we have taken in the larger scene. We may get the “big picture,” but that doesn’t mean we have reached a level of mastery.

The Bedroom by von Gogh
The entire scene from von Gogh’s 1888 painting, the Bedroom.

To achieve mastery in our understanding of the Bedroom, we must understand the fine details of every object in the bedroom. We must see the individual brush strokes, colors, shapes and intricate details of every object and feel their interaction with each other.

It takes a great deal of “zooming in and out” to achieve mastery. Mastery may be impossible to achieve altogether. The reason being–if the universe is infinite–there is no limit to how much you can zoom in and out.

I’ll save that thought for another walk.

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