Breaking the Rules

There’s something I heard, a rule of art, when I was young that has stuck with me over the years: you have to know the rules before you can break them. I’ve seen it attributed to Picasso, and to the Dalai Lama, both of whom are respectable sources. It always made a certain amount of sense to me when applied to art and similar skills–that you have to be familiar with the techniques as they are usually practiced before you can experiment with them successfully. You have to know the tools and what they can do before you can discover what else they can do.

I actually tend to apply that principle across the board in my life. First time I make a new recipe, I follow it to the letter. I may (and probably will) make changes when and if I make it again, but on that first attempt I want to know that what I am making is as expected. When I know how it is meant to turn out, I can do things differently and see what effect that has.

And yes, this also informs my approach to my religious practice. If there is an established way of doing something, I will probably try that first. If it doesn’t work for me, I can make changes, tweak it to see if it’s adaptable, or try something wholly different.

Briefly, I try the tried-and-true, and if the tried-and-true isn’t true for me, I try something else.

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