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The How of Things

“We humans live in two worlds. First, there is the outer world of appearances—all of the forms of things that captivate our eye. But hidden from our view is another world—how these things actually function, their anatomy or composition, the parts working together and forming the whole. This second world is not so immediately captivating. It is harder to understand. It is not something visible to the eye, but only to the mind that glimpses the reality. But this “how” of things is just as poetic once we understand it—it contains the secret of life, of how things move and change.”
– Robert Greene, Mastery

You might read a paragraph like the one above with the eye of a scientist, seeing the truth through the lens of composition of matter and chemical reaction and such. You might read it through the eyes of a politician or businessperson, immediately grasping the backroom deals and favors that occur well before the headlines catch the attention of the public. Or you might read it with the eye of an artist, seeing the structure of the words themselves and how they spin magic in their unique assembly on the page. There is indeed poetry in the how.

There’s a light that dawns when you see this other side of things, this secret sauce of how and why things are the way they are. Lessons learned through experience and intelligent observation and time invested in the questions of how. Some people receive the gift of a curious mind early in life and immerse themselves in the wonder of how, but most of us are too dazzled by the sleight of hand to focus on how the magician does the trick.

There’s magic in the how. Watch Paul McCartney at a mixing board isolating bits of a Beatles song and you learn the intricate composition and experimentation that went into crafting it. The magic seems to sparkle on the surface, but it’s much deeper than you might hear in a first listen. The final product is an illusion built on layers of sonic novelty and gumption. The joy lies in discovering things you missed the first dozen times you heard a song.

The magic lies in the mix. What we see on the surface is only the tip of the iceberg. Dive deeper into the how.

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