加载中…
个人资料
踏中西文化背精彩文章
踏中西文化背精彩文章
  • 博客等级:
  • 博客积分:0
  • 博客访问:278,803
  • 关注人气:167
  • 获赠金笔:0支
  • 赠出金笔:0支
  • 荣誉徽章:
相关博文
推荐博文
谁看过这篇博文
加载中…
正文 字体大小:

The Importance of Doing Things Badly

(2009-05-19 21:25:38)
标签:

杂谈

I. A. Williams was born in England and educated at Cambridge. After World War I he served as a correspondent for the London Times. Williams wrote several books on eighteenth-century poetry and drama, published widely in journals and magazines, and published collections of his own poetry. The following article first appeared in London’s The Outlook in 1923.

Perhaps the greatest threat to productivity in both work and play is the fear of doing things badly or wrong. This article offers some comfort. Williams points out that there are many things worth doing badly, and that our lives are enriched and our personalities enhanced by these activities. Two central examples, sports and music, are valuable to most people in proportion to how enthusiastically they do them, rather than how well.

Charles Lamb wrote a series of essays upon popular fallacies. I do not, at the moment, carry them very clearly in my memory; but, unless that treacherous servant misleads me more even than she usually does, he did not write of one piece of proverbial so-called wisdom that has always seemed to me to be peculiarly pernicious. And this saw, this scrap of specious advice, this untruth masquerading as logic, is one that I remember to have had hurled at my head at frequent intervals from my earliest youth right up to my present advanced age. How many times have I not been told that “If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well”?

Never was there a more untruthful word spoken in earnest. For the world is full of things that are worth doing, but certainly not worth doing well. Was it not so great a sage as Herbert Spencer[1] who said to the young man who had just beaten him at billiards, “Moderate skill, sir, is the sign of a good eye and a steady hand, but skill such as yours argues a youth misspent”? Is any game worth playing supremely well, at the price of constant practice and application?

Against the professional player I say nothing; he is a public entertainer, like any other, and by his skill in his particular sport he at least fulfills the first social duty of man—that of supporting himself and his family by his own legitimate exertions. But what is to be said of the crack amateur? To me he seems one of the most contemptible of mankind. He earns no money, but devotes himself, for the mere selfish pleasure of the thing, to some game, which he plays day in day out; he breaks down the salutary distinction between the amateur and the professional; eventually his skill deserts him, and he leaves behind him nothing that is of service to his fellow men—not a brick laid, not an acre ploughed, not a line written, not even a family supported and educated by his labor.

It is true that he has provided entertainment for a certain number of persons, but he has never had the pluck to submit himself to the test by which we demand that every entertainer should justify his choice of a calling—the demonstration of the fact that the public is willing to pay him for his entertainment . And, when his day is over, what is left, not even to the world, but to himself? Nothing but a name that is at once forgotten, or is remembered by stout gentlemen in clubs.

The playing of games, certainly, is a thing which is not worth doing well.

But that does not prove that it is not worth doing at all, as the proverb would, by implication, persuade us. There is nothing more agreeable and salutary than playing a game which one likes, and the circumstance of doing it badly interferes with the pleasure of no real devotee of any pastime. The man who minds whether or not he wins is no true sportsman—which observation is trite, but the rule it implies is seldom observed, and comparatively few people really play games for the sheer enjoyment of the playing. Is this not proved by the prence and popularity of handicaps? Why should we expect to be given points unless it be that we wish to win by means other than our own skill?

“Ah! but,” my reader may say, “the weaker player wants to receive points in order that he may give the stronger one a better game.” Really, I do not believe that that is so. Possible, sometimes, a strong and vainglorious player may wish to give points, in order that his victory may be the more notable. But I do not think that even this is the true explanation. That, I suspect, was given to me the other day by the secretary of a lawn-tennis tournament, in which I played. “Why all this nonsense of handicaps? Why not let us be squarely beaten, and done with it?” I asked him. “Because,” He replied, “if we did not give handicaps, none of the less good players would enter.” Is that not a confession that the majority of us have both realized the true value doing a trivial thing badly, for its own sake, and must needs have our minds buoyed and cheated into a false sense of excellence?

Moreover it is not only such intrinsically trivial things as games that are worth doing badly. This is a truth which, oddly enough, we accept freely of some things—but not of others—and as a thing which we are quite content to do ill let me instance acting. Acting, at its best, can be a great art, a thing worth doing supremely well, though its worth, like that of all interpretative arts, is lessened by its evanescence. For it works in the impermanent medium of human flesh and blood, and the thing that the actor create—for what we call an interpretative artist is really a creative artist working in a perishable medium—is an impression upon, an emotion or a thought aroused in, the minds of an audience, and is incapable of record.

Acting, then, let me postulate—though I have only sketched ever so briefly the proof of my belief—can be a great art. But is anyone ever deterred from taking part in amateur theatricals by the consideration that he cannot act well? Not a bit of it! And quite rightly not, for acting is one of the things about which I am writing this essay—the things that are worth doing badly.

Another such thing is music; but here the proverbial fallacy again exerts its power, as it does not, for some obscure and unreasoning discrimination, in acting. Most people seem to think that if they cannot sing, or play the piano, fiddle, or sackbut, admirably well, they must not do any of these things at all. That they should not indiscriminately force their inferior performances upon the public, or even upon their acquaintances, I admit. But that there is no place “in the home” for inferior musical performances, is an untruth that I flatly deny.

How many sons and daughters have not, with a very small talent, given their parents—and even the less fondly prejudiced ears of their friends—great pleasure with the singing of simple songs? Then one day there comes to the singer the serpent of dissatisfaction; singing lessons are taken, and—if the pupil is of moderate talent and modest disposition—limitations are discovered. And then, in nine cases out of ten, the singing is dropped, like a hot penny. How many fathers have not banished music from their homes by encouraging their daughters to take singing lessons? Yet a home may be the fresher for singing that would deserve brickbats at a parish concert.

I may pause here to notice the curious exception that people who cannot on any account be persuaded to sing in the drawing-room, or even in the bath, will without hesitation uplift their tuneless voices at religious meetings or in church. There is a perfectly good and honorable explanation of this, I believe, but it belongs to the realm of metaphysics and is beyond my present scope.

This cursed belief, that if a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well, is the cause of a great impoverishment in our private life, and also, to some extent, of the lowering of standards in our public life. For this tenet of proverbial faith has two effects on small talents: it leads modest persons not to exercise them at all, and immodest persons to attempt to do so too much and to force themselves upon the public. It leads to the decay of letter--writing and of the keeping of diaries, and, as surely, it leads to the publication of memoirs and diaries that should remain locked in the writers’ desks.

It leads Mr. Blank not to write verses at all—which he might very well do, for the sake of his own happiness, and for the amusement of his friends—and it leads Miss Dash to pester the overworked editors of various journals with her unsuccessful imitations of Mr. de la Mare,[2] Mr. Yeats[3], and Dr. Bridges.[4] The result is that our national artistic life now suffers from two great needs: A wider amateur practice of the arts, and a higher, more exclusive, prfessional standard. Until these are achieved we shall not get the best out of our souls.

The truth is, I conceive, that there is for most of us only one thing—beyond, of course, our duties of citizenship and our personal duties as sons, or husbands, or fathers, daughters, or wives, or mothers—that is worth doing well—that is to say, with all our energy. That one thing may be writing, or it may be making steam-engines, or laying bricks. Bt after that there are hundreds of things that are worth doing badly, with only part of our energy, for the sake of the relaxation they bring us, and for the contacts which they give us wth our minds. And the sooner England realizes this, as once she did, the happier, the more contented, the more gracious, will our land be.

There are even, I maintain, things that are in themselves better done badly than well. Consider fishing, where one’s whole pleasure is often spoiled by having to kill a fish. Now, if one could contrive always to try to catcha fish, and never to do so, one might—But that is aother story.

 

查尔斯·兰姆曾执笔千言,其随笔不乏广为流传的谬论,可惜我一时记不清具体的例子。受我狡猾的仆人空前绝后的迷惑,我倒觉得他没写过什么我认为有害却被公众交口称赞的文章。下面这句看似真理实为荒谬的格言,从儿时至今,直到步入老年,一直不断敲打我,谆谆告诫我,“一件事只要值得一做,一定要好好去做”。

 

没有哪个谬论被人们如此认真不断地重复了。这个世界充满了值得一做的事情,但绝非件件都值得好好去做。哲人如赫伯特·斯宾塞,就曾对桌球场上击败自己的年轻人说:“先生,桌球技艺中等的标准是眼准、手稳,不过你展示的技艺表明,你的青春错度了。”哪一个游戏值得如此不断地反复练习与操作,玩到这样如火纯青的娴熟程度呢?

职业玩家当然另当别论。他为公众表演,和他人一样,通过自己的运动技艺履行人的首要社会职责----凭自己的合法劳动养家糊口。那么第一流的业余玩家呢?我以为这类人是人类最不齿的一族。他不挣钱,仅为个人的愉悦不分昼夜地玩耍着,他打破了业余与职业之间的有益界限,最终被其技艺抛弃。他没有给同胞留下任何有用之物----垒一块砖,耕一亩地,写一行文字,甚至没有凭自己的劳动养家育儿。

他也许为一小撮人带来了娱乐,可他从没敢奢望公众会为他的表演付款,而这可是我们检验表演者选择职业的理由。当一天结束以后,他给这个世界,给他自己留下了什么呢?除了很快淡忘的名声,了无他物,至多被俱乐部的肥胖绅士偶尔提起而已。

游戏显然不是值得好好一做的事情。

但这并不意味游戏不值一做,正如我前面提到的格言所暗示的那样。玩自己喜欢的游戏是最惬意、最有益的事情,玩不精也不会防碍真正业余爱好者的愉悦。太在意输赢的人不是真正的游戏爱好者,这个见解已不新鲜,但它包含的准则却还没有被发掘。很少有人玩游戏仅仅是为娱乐而已。为使得胜机会均等而设的不公平竞争这么流行,不就是一个很好的证明吗?我们为什么总期望在竞技能力之外额外获分呢?

“哦,是这样,”读者会说,“给劣者额外加分,是想刺激强者伶俐尽致地发挥技能。”可我不信原因真正在此。有时,也许实力雄厚而又不乏虚荣的玩家为了胜局的格外眩目愿意让分,但我认为问题的症结并不在此。前几天我参加草地网球赛时,竞赛秘书曾跟我做过以下解释。我问他:“干吗设置这种得胜机会均等的不公平竞争?为什么不让我们输也输个公平,接受失败呢?”他是这样回答的:“不设置这种竞赛就没有人来玩了。”此话难道不是昭然若揭,表明我们大多数人没意识到某些时候草草做事的必要,偏偏需要鼓励,需要进入自欺欺人的良好感觉吗?

并不仅仅游戏之类的小事可以草草处之。说来奇怪,有些事情我们表示可以随便做做,有些事情却觉得万万不能。在我们认为能随便做做的事情中,我举戏剧表演这个例子来谈谈。戏剧表演若能登峰造极,达到颠峰,实为了不起的艺术,是值得好好一做的事情,虽说它的价值和所有其他表演艺术一样,会因其瞬息性而减弱。戏剧表演对人类瞬息多变的情感产生影响,演员所创造的----我们说的表演艺术家是对人类瞬息万变的情感产生影响的真正的创造性的艺术家----是唤起观众心灵深处的一种印象,一种情感或者一种思想,因而是一种无法记录的感觉。

我认为戏剧艺术是门很了不起的艺术,虽说我只简要地概述了自己的这一信条。但有没有人因为怕演不好戏而不敢参加业余戏剧表演呢?没有!没有就对了,因为演戏是本文所谈论的不值好好一做的事情之一。

另一件事是音乐。上面那句格言的谬误在音乐上应验了,不知出于什么微妙原因,它在戏剧表演上没能应验。多数人认为,唱不好歌,弹不好琴,如钢琴、小提琴或管乐,就别自不量力,皂白不分地硬将自己拙劣的表演加给公众,甚至熟人。这一点我赞同,但在自家也不容类似的蹩脚表演就过分了。

多少儿女虽无技艺,但他们简单的歌却给父母,给不存偏见的朋友带来何等的快乐?然而,渐渐地小歌唱家开始有烦恼了,他得赴声乐课学歌,倘若天资平平,性情一般,其弱项便开始暴露,最终,十有八九,音乐如一枚不值钱的便士,被弃之一边。有多少父亲因为鼓动女儿学歌而没有把音乐逐出家门?但在教区音乐会上练喉,可能就会遭骂。

但我也注意到这样一个反常现象,有些人在自家客厅甚至浴室从不张嘴唱歌,但在宗教集会或教堂却毫不犹豫地拉开五音不全的嗓门。我相信这种现象不难阐释,但它属玄学体系,已不是我现在论述的范围了。

该死的“值得一做就必须好好去做”的信条导致我们社会生活贫乏,并且一定程度上降低了我们的社会生活标准。因为它对年轻且有些才华的人有可能会产生两种影响:谦虚的人会索性再也不做尝试,而自负的人却一头扎进去,硬是要将自己展现给公众。一些人会因此而不再写信、写日记;另一些人却迫不及待地把原本该锁在自己抽屉里的日记和回忆录公布于世。

它让布兰克先生从此不再写诗------其实他满可以继续写诗,为自乐和娱友;它令达什小姐拿自己拙劣的模仿之作(模仿德拉 梅尔先生、叶芝先生和布里奇斯博士)不断纠缠各大杂志劳累过度的编辑。这样的结果是,使我们国家的艺术生活处于两种奇缺之中:既缺乏业余爱好者的广泛参与,又缺乏高级、专门、职业化的规格。而我们只有实现了这两个目标,才能从心灵深处获取最杰出的东西。

我认为对多数人来说,除掉作为公民的职责,除掉作为儿子、丈夫、父亲、女儿、妻子或母亲的个人职责以外,只有一件事值得好好去做,那就是写作,去制造蒸汽机,去砌砖。除此之外,很多事情并不能因为能给我们带来轻松或令我们身心交融就值得好好去做,值得全身心去投入。英国只有在意识到这一点之后,才会处于幸福之颠,她越感幸福,就会越仁慈通达。

我甚至认为有些事只值得做糟,不值做好。比如说钓鱼,一想到钓到的欲待会被宰杀,所有的愉悦顿时荡然无存。当然,你既能钓到鱼,又不用宰杀它,感觉可能会很不错--------不过那就另当别论了。

 

 

0

阅读 评论 收藏 转载 喜欢 打印举报/Report
  • 评论加载中,请稍候...
发评论

    发评论

    以上网友发言只代表其个人观点,不代表新浪网的观点或立场。

      

    新浪BLOG意见反馈留言板 电话:4000520066 提示音后按1键(按当地市话标准计费) 欢迎批评指正

    新浪简介 | About Sina | 广告服务 | 联系我们 | 招聘信息 | 网站律师 | SINA English | 会员注册 | 产品答疑

    新浪公司 版权所有