“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” 

Henry Jaglom says Orson Welles told him this over lunch one day. He explained that creativity comes from having to figure out how to do something, with an example being that you don’t have a million dollars to blow up a bridge (for a film) so you have to find another way to get the effect you want.

My friend Martha wrote about limits, and a rediscovered old friend Margie quoted her brother about limits in her book “More Than Meets the Eye: Exploring Nature and Loss on the Coast of Maine”. Her brother had ALS and was about to start using a ventilator. He compared it to SCUBA diving: “You need a lot of cumbersome equipment to dive, but it’s worth the view you get from deep in the ocean. I feel the same way about a ventilator – it will be cumbersome but worth the view.”

As a (former) diver, I could relate. I didn’t like the limitation of holding my breath to snorkel when I was in water where all the action was 30 feet down. The limit of being able to breathe for only 45 minutes was freedom, not a limit. While I felt weighted down on land (the lead weights on my belt had something to do with that), I was weightless in the water. It was pretty hard to walk in fins, but they sure came in handy down there.

Likewise, we often speak of someone “confined to a wheelchair”. The alternative is often “confined to a bed”, but we tend not to see it that way. In this case, “confined” refers to a past that is no longer here. The wheelchair provides freedom (from the bed) and mobility. It also grounds us in the here and now, not an inaccessible past. While it may be a relative limit (compared to walking, which is not an option when paralyzed), it is an actual freedom. We could say that our inability to fly is a limitation, but since we never could fly we tend not to see it that way. When the day comes that I can no longer ride a bike, will I remember and experience this truth, or only experience the loss?

A limit also gives you the freedom to explore within that limit. Is it a limit, or a framework? We live with gravity and friction every day. That limits us from the ability to fly or to travel at infinite speed. Then again, would we have any of our current sports without those two “limits”?

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”- “Squire Bill” Widener 1840-1920

Or as Si Kahn sang:

Also see previous post re: Django Reinhardt. Django had no use of the ring finger and small finger of his left hand. You wouldn’t know it to hear him play the guitar.