I like to think I have an eye for detail, but I have to admit that I am also very broad brush. Quite literally so in the case of painting and drawing, although rapid execution very often conceals a fair bit of reflection and serious study beforehand. A broad brush approach when taken to excess is not a great thing if it precludes real, deep analysis and appreciation of something, since thoughtful and detailed study is something which is profoundly rewarding but all too rarely accomplished in my case.
I was reminded of this recently on a couple of occasions.
The first was in the course of a discussion about the worth of going back time and time again to a small village. It might be a wonderful place, but is it a good idea to return when you could be experiencing something new elsewhere? My immediate thought was that I am full of enthusiasm for new experiences and cultures, and maybe it was silly to keep going back somewhere. I wondered how the same small place, however lovely, could be worth it? Of course, it is. It’s precisely because of the opportunities repeat visits provide for digging deeper and deeper into the essence, and uncovering and exploring cultural, geographical and human detail. This enriching, more profound ‘experiencing’ is the complete opposite to most mass market tourist experience. And it explains I suppose why I can never get tired of circling my local lake in Roundhay Park.
Detailed scrutiny doesn’t just make for a better tourist experience though. In-depth investigation of virtually anything can be enthralling. BBC Radio 4 is particularly good at this pursuing of the offbeat and obscure in a way which has the casual listener sitting in a car park to hear the end of the programme. even with the advantages of iPlayer (because it’s too easy to forget what it was you wanted to catch up on by the time you’re home!). Yesterday’s Food Programme on malt was a wonderful example of this. I’m no beer drinker, and I dare not remain in the same room as malt loaf if I want to avoid hyperglycemia, but I loved the enthusiastic expertise demonstrated by the interviewees. Who knew malt could be so extraordinarily interesting?
And that’s the thing about study, and detail, and depth: supported by enthusiasm and real knowledge, any topic becomes a source of fascination for anybody else inclined to listen in. In an increasingly superficial world, it is too easy to forget the value of this.