Yesterday I went kayaking again and managed to take a photo from the unusually tippy boat. The first time I went, I was charging ahead with confidence; this time, I wobbled and veered. I can blame the boat, but the truth is that I don’t have technique yet. The first boat was more forgiving. (Two very kind volunteers gave me a little lesson; by the end, I was making good progress.)
Having been a beginner at many things, from languages to electronics, I can speak to some of its joys:
In a short time you can move from knowing nothing to knowing something (and seeing that there’s still much more to learn). That can be exhilarating.
You can usually do something with what little you know. That includes thinking about it. This means the mind has more good things to carry around.
Initially, there’s a certain charm in ineptitude, and others treat it generously.
Then come the drawbacks:
The charm of ineptitude fades quickly; after that, there’s nothing but excellence to strive for, and little chance of reaching it.
Beginners struggle to perform even simple tasks, like rowing, saying a sentence in a new language, or playing a simple melody. More work for less beauty doesn’t seem fair.
For the most part, beginners know that they can progress if they practice long and well. It may take considerable time. Perpetual beginners have chosen, in some way and for some reason, not to take on that commitment. This can be embarrassing to admit.
All that said, it’s good that there’s room for beginners, even perpetual beginners, in the world. There’s only so much that we can do well, and it would be a shame to give up the rest. I may never be an expert kayaker, but I hope to go out on the water many more times in my life.