Call It Anything

24 July 2021

Years back at the Isle of Wight festival, Miles Davis played a 23-minute improvised song. Later on when he was asked the name of the song he replied “Call it anything”. Of course, the piece went down in history with that name. After all, it has to be called something.

This was not just a fancy gimmick — at least not in its entirety — but a statement. A statement, saying in his own way, that definitions and descriptions are not really saying anything about the essence of the music. The music talks in and of itself. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It doesn’t even matter if you like it. It stays the same. You can name the genre of the music or you can name the notes and chords the musicians play, but still, you don’t know anything more about the music. However you define it or describe it, the music stays the same and it is what it is.

In an interview, Richard Feynman was asked a question and his answer was of similar significance — at least for me. He gave the example of the bird. A bird is a bird but we have come up with many names for it. Because you know the name of it and the bird is called such and such in different languages does not mean you know anything about the bird really is. It is just a name. You should not focus on words but should strive to understand something about the thing they are describing.

I have similar feelings about blogging, writing, music, coding, or any other endeavour in general. There are many words to describe styles of music, systems of writing, or methodologies of programming. There are many ways of writing and various journaling and note-taking systems that help us release our creative leash. There are music genres that we can learn from tradition and communicate with others musicians. There are programming methodologies and styles that we can follow and read upon to better understand certain concepts.

All these are meant to help us. But they can do the opposite as well.

A Prison of Definitions

Words and definitions can get in the way of finding our own way and what works for us. Instead of being a slave of definitions and saying I can’t do this the way it was intended, you can tweak it to make it your own.

For example a couple of months back I learned about digital gardening. I was fascinated by the concept and it freed me from a debilitating habit of criticizing everything I write making it impossible to publish anything.

So I decided to create my own garden. Then I got another bug in my head. I kept thinking if what I was doing was really a garden or not. Is this the proper way of doing it? I would end up in the same place.

This had as an effect of starting in an organized way, having the feeling that I found the light, but in time I would become a prisoner of the definition which derailed my ability to construct my own processes.

So what do I do? How do I write? How do I create? How do I play?

Well, you can call it anything, as I create, based on what is on my mind and what sparks my interest.

Don’t tell me what it’s called. I won’t understand it anyway.

Call it anything