Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Science and Art

When it comes to working with my birds, science meets art, shaking hands, permanently interwoven with one another. While yesterday's post described a general outline of working with Strider and Sammy, when I am working with the birds, I am not guided by outlines or moving according to a recipe.

While it is essential for me to have a plan, to set objectives, to analyze and even to write down certain aspects of my training and goals, as is the case in any art, we respond as the environment changes around us in a manner most difficult to quantify. We are shaping behaviors and doing so with a blend of both science and art.

Whether training or interacting, the conditions are so dynamic, that I must be prepared to react, change course, or reassess at every step. The science must be well ingrained, so I am drawing from my subconscious mind what I have learned, as my conscious mind responds to what I am seeing. The knowledge of my birds is a catalyst.

The foundation of the science of behavior is crucial to me, as it is such a valuable and consistent tool in meeting my objectives with my birds. The art is something nearly impossible to express in the written word.

One example that comes to mind is the
technically flawless musician that plays notes exactly as written on the page (skill/science), and the proficient musician that plays from the heart (art/finesse - mixed with skill/science). Both may perform the same piece with nearly identical skill, but one will stir the emotion within us envisioned by the composer when the music was first penned. Most of us would find ourselves preferring to listen to the proficient musician who played with 'heart' (again, something that is impossible to quantify) over the flawless musician who played from the notes on the page.

I am a teacher by training and at heart and, perhaps because of that, I recognize it is incredibly difficult to explain anything in the written word. It is even more challenging to explain how to observe or respond to a dynamic environment. A comedian cannot provide a detailed explanation for how he handles hecklers, nor can an artist explain why a painting needs
just a little more blue in the sky in order to achieve the desired effect.

There is a place where science meets art when we are working with our birds. The foundation is the science; the art is our ability to respond to a dynamic environment and relationship with our birds virtually instantaneously and by instinct. In actuality, even this is only one level of the art of training. Again, the catalyst is our knowledge of our birds and skills of observation.

At times, I find talking about the art of working with my birds much in the same way as discussing the nature of the universe. It can be fascinatingly complicated, always intriguing and an open-ended opportunity for learning and growth. Unfortunately, it cannot always (or even somewhat) be boiled down to words on a page. But when we all listen to the music played from the heart, or watch the billiard champion run the table, we see the partnership of science and art in action - and it is a tremendously beautiful experience.


Anonymous said...

I just found your blog today. So far, I have only read this post, but I must say I like it! I completely understand how difficult it is to express the art side of training. When you are in the moment of training, it is near impossible to answer questions like "why did you approach the problem this way, instead of that way?", "how did you know to do that?", "why did you do this?", etc. Even after your session, maybe looking at videos, you may not be able to completely explain it. This post of yours did a great job of explaining why this is so difficult to quantify! However, you know art when you see it. From a novice training their first "turn" to an expert chaining a series of complex behaviors, you watch it and you enjoy it!


Chicklet said...

wow, Robin this was an amazing post, very philosophical, i love it :)

Jim said...

Great post, Robin!


Robin said...

Thank you for your comments! JJ, I really appreciated your bringing out the dichotomy between the 'novice' and the 'expert'. The art comes from the heart, and as you so aptly point out - it is something we all recognize the moment we see it!

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