What do we learn from the world’s great masterpieces?

When you learn how to look at a masterpiece, it will teach you how to make a masterpiece of your life.

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Recall for a moment your last encounter with a masterpiece. Perhaps you are looking at, listening to, or tasting it right now. What is it that makes it a masterpiece to you? Take note of those characteristics and fix them in your mind. Now, let’s compare them with the characteristics of masterpieces handed down to us over the centuries.

The Power of Attraction

The first thing we notice about a masterpiece is its power of attraction. The ‘work’ itself draws your attention to it. No matter what material the masterpiece is created from, including the written word, the finished work has a presence that speaks for itself. Over the centuries, this ‘quality of presence’ of a masterpiece, is described as the direct result of the ‘perfection of execution’ by the maker, achieved through superior craftsmanship.

Superior Craftsmanship

Going back centuries to the Greek view of craftsmanship, a key attribute that separated the skilled artisan from the craftsperson was the craftsperson’s ability to articulate the goal or desired outcome of the work to be done. Then perform the work with ‘excellence of execution’.

This ability described in Plato’s dialogs as technê; the root of our word ‘technique’, was a learned skill, and identified those considered as craftspersons in the Greek view, from those only capable of demonstrating mechanical ability to perform a particular task with skill.

How Does Technê Apply to My Life?

Technê is distinguished not only by the craftsperson’s ability to give an account of the ‘desired outcome’ of the result envisioned, but it is also distinguished by the effect the work will have on the welfare of its end object.

In this case, you are the end object of your work, and your personal welfare is the end result you must envision before you apply processes, tools, and techniques to effect a change in your life.

That is; you must understand what is to be done before you plunge headfirst into doing it, if your desired outcome is to result in an improved condition in some area of your life. This will be gained only through the application of skillful technê in your actions. It is the same ‘excellence of execution’ used to make any masterpiece.

You Are the Craftsperson of Your Life

Your life is in your hands. Will you become the skilled craftsperson of your life, shaping it with deliberate care, through the application of learned skills, improved over time, and make a masterpiece of your life?

Or, will you release control of your life to chance encounters with fate, and the forces of nature, to randomly bend and shape your life? Or just follow your ‘intuition’ piecing things together, and hoping they stick?

There is a choice for you to make, and a recipe for you to follow, hidden in the masterpieces that surround us.

“Birth of Venus” 1485. Uffizi, Florence - Sandro Botticelli

“Neither talent without instruction.

Nor Instruction without talent,

Can produce the perfect craftsman.”

— Vitruvius, Architect & Engineer

Learn more about The Way of Craftsmanship at Masterwork Journal

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