Thursday, January 5, 2006

Process Versus Product

Jenn's Knit Sweater
I was flipping through a new knitting book that my wife got in the mail. She wanted me to pick out some projects that she could make for me. (She had just finished a nice vest, and I liked how it turned out.)

This knitting book, by Sally Melville, was quite inviting. I skimmed the pictures, marveling that the description of the actual stitching is done in a very terse language that looks like computer code ("Yf, sl 1 p-wise, yb, k to 5 sts remaining"). In Ms. Melville's The Purl Stitch ("don't try purling until you've learned knitting," she warns), she has a "meditation" on "Process versus Product." She states clearly that the process is "knitting," and the product is the final "garment." She strongly claims that the more valuable of the two is "the process." In fact, she writes "if you ask a knitter what she loves, she often won't even mention the finished garment."

Ms. Melville then applies the Process versus Product analogy to relationships ("dating and engagement" versus "the wedding"), to child caring (quick: what's the product? what's the process?), to education, to life itself.

For me, I most savor the times in my job when I can just "try things out": compiling code and seeing if it works, trying some different command or statement to see its effect. I love the process. Same with the guitar. My favorite part of working through the guitar DVDs is making my fingers learn the song. For most songs, this is a grueling process. However, once I finish learning the song, I am eager to go through the process again.

In the end, she says "it's what we do in the time we pass that makes up a lifetime. The journey is the destination." How wonderful to be reminded of this, from such an unexpected place!

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