Perfect Normality
Words, Non-fiction
2016—04 (30)     
Los Angeles, CA

I took a short-lived calligraphy class some 6-7 years ago. The instructor was a true calligraphy master. So masterful that he walked around all the time with a reed and bottle of ink tucked away in the inside pocket of his jacket. Whenever he had a handful of idle minutes in his day, he would take them out and get to writing something. He was super-fast and so skilled that he was capable of whipping out any number of styles at any given time. I was really impressed by how well this man had mastered his craft. It was hard not to.

One thing he said that really stuck with me, was how he noticed that his calligraphy wasn’t really the best on Sundays.

“Sundays? Why Sundays?!” I asked with bewilderment.

“I put my reed and ink away on Fridays and Saturdays. To spend quality time with the wife and kids. And then I get back to writing again on Sundays. And I can always tell that Sundays are my weakest days. Thursdays are always my best.”

This is a man who’d been doing calligraphy 5 days a week or more for some… 30 years. And it still mattered whether or not he practiced his craft everyday. And I find that utterly fascinating. I mean, I couldn’t tell the difference between his Sunday and Thursday work no matter how long I examined it. But he could tell the difference, and that’s what really mattered.

Thinking about this calligrapher got me thinking about the cutlery of David Mellor, who rather than attempt to reinvent cutlery, was primarily concerned with perfecting cutlery. Rather than attempt to make any broad radical changes to cutlery or our understanding of it, his approach involved perfecting the production of cutlery in accordance to our classical understanding of it, resulting in really well-made very basic cutlery. Nothing extremely fancy or weird or strikingly noticeable about them other than they are completely, and utterly normal. But so perfect in their normalcy. I quite like that.

If there’s an analogy to be drawn there in terms of storytelling, I can’t seem to think of anything other than Baz Luhrmann’s work on ROMEO + JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE. Both are stories we all know the endings to. We also know all the broad strokes in the stories as well as any “plot twists” that may exist in them and so on and so forth. Luhrmann’s remakes are capable of keeping us engaged and invested throughout, even though we pretty much know all the story beats and know exactly how the stories will end. Baz Luhrmann’s films force us to re-evaluate what we may mistakenly think are the most important aspects of storytellings (i.e. plot twists and big radical ideas) and instead show us that perfecting the way a story is told is actually key.

Exactly like a good set of cutlery. Or writing the ABC’s really, really well.