An End To A Start
One of my favorite things about this universe is its reflexive nature.
The further you look out into space, the larger scale you take, the more it starts to look like the smallest scale.
The more magnified the microscope, the more what you see resembles what you might see out of a contrastingly large telescope.
Life’s vicissitudes refers to the up and down undulations of the every day.
While there’s an up and down to every day, you can see the same up and down on any scale.
Take a month, you see the same wave shape. A year. A minute.
And within that wave, you might look closer and you see that it and of itself is made up of smaller ups and downs.
There are certain universal patterns to the universe we live in that grant no big secret to living, but perhaps grant a sense of understanding that all things are connected when truly seen. And perhaps this understanding is if not the, a secret to living well.
This is where my thoughts took me when considering the end of the beginning of my study of web design.
I always try to have an understanding of the linear flow of my life. Maybe it restricts me. But I feel it helps me maybe to organize things. In seeing this as the close, I can reflect on it as a whole and take more clear and concise lessons and techniques forward. Plus, seeing it as just the beginning, I can then consider what chapters ought to come next.
Anyways, enough abstraction.
What I’ve Understood
My expectations that it would be a lot like learning a language were pretty much spot on.
Of all the things during this month and a half, I found my wish to have a teacher, or at least other peers to learn from, to be unquenchable. I don’t believe having a teacher or lessons are necessary for learning anything. But one needs some kind of a sounding board. What I mean by this is perhaps best explained with how I learned Japanese. I started learning walking around Shikoku (perhaps one of the least inhabited and least English friendly areas of Japan) on a pilgrimage. This led me to spending hours or days alone with Japanese and other people of various levels of English ability.
This developed in me a technique that I hold to be paramount. If you need to learn to shoot a basketball into the hoop, you throw the basketball at the hoop and see what works and what doesn’t. The physical laws of the universe and your body respond to your attempts and guide you. With language and more intellectual pursuits, you need something to take the place of these physical guides. You have to take shots and see what gets the ball in the basket. In language, you need to try to produce the language and see what conveys your thoughts correctly. What creates conversations. The best way to do this is by trying (and failing many times) to converse with someone who speaks the language perfectly. They can then act as that sounding board for you.
So to put it concisely:
• I found that with web design, it was essentially similar to learning Japanese in that I could completely teach myself and produce a result simply by googling and making mistakes over and over again until it worked.
• I found it was dissimilar in that I found it much harder, despite having the entire internet of resources at my fingertips, to find someone to learn from.
• This resulted in me doing the right things often in the wrong way. So for instance given my circumstances, my computer and my screen size, everything looked right, but when viewed on another screen, all the proportions and positions would be disjointed.
• In other instances, the way I wrote code to produce an effect was in an extremely longwinded, or difficult to understand way. This leads to the code then being difficult to go back to, difficult to reproduce, and difficult to collaborate on. This has helped me realize that with coding, producing the right result is much closer to the first step than the last, and really the process should be prioritized.
Those might seem like difficult issues to fix. But anything seems difficult to approach when viewed with too broad a lens. It makes sense that, with no prior experience and no code to mimic, my first code would be messy and present some issue.
I’m sure you’ve realized, but I like turning back to language to understand things.
What is grammar. Sure, it’s how words connect. But grammatical phrases are something that fascinate me. Ways of expressing an idea that, taken literally, don’t really seem too communicative or even to make sense at all. There are lots of these in Japanese, fresh in my mind from learning it, but of course in English there are countless expressions. Be that as it may. Be that as it may? What is that? Why does it mean what it means?
In the same way in programming, we have things like <div> and <hr>. And going through all the code I learned, there were little shortcuts and more concise ways of doing everything that I came to start to understand. Learning these grammatical expressions is always the key to clear, natural communication in the target language – and so it will be the same with programming. The key is to understand why these tools are used, and how they came about.