At the Transmission Project we’re steadily working towards fleshing out our critique of best practice and the proposal of an alternative: _ honest practice_.

If “best practices” are the standards of excellence within organizations considered high performing, how can it be expected that those standards could be immediately implemented in startup programs? What of differences in organizational culture and constituencies, not to mention technical and information systems? Is innovation supported if funding follows conventional wisdom? How do we know that wisdom is valid when our industry is trained to share only the lessons of success and not of failure?

The difference between honest practice and best practice reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “The Poet”: poets translate underlying patterns and deep truths into the vernacular;  mystics create shallow snapshots that soon lose their greater meaning.

Readers of poetry see the factory-village, and the railway, and fancy that the poetry of the landscape is broken up by these. for these works of art are not yet consecrated in their reading; but the poet sees them fall within the great Order not less than the bee-hive, or the spider’s geometrical web. Nature adopts them very fast into her vital circles, and the gliding train of cars she loves like her own. Besides, in a centred mind, it signifies nothing how many mechanical inventions you exhibit. Though you add millions, and never so surprising, the fact of mechanics has not gained a grain’s weight. The spiritual fact remains unalterable, by many or by few particulars; as no mountain is of any appreciable height to break the curve of the sphere. …

But the quality of the imagination is to flow, and not to freeze. The poet did not stop at the color, or the form, but read their meaning; neither may he rest in this meaning, but he makes the same objects exponents of his new thought. Here is the difference betwixt the poet and the mystic, that the last nails a symbol to one sense, which was a true sense for a moment, but soon becomes old and false. For all symbols are fluxional; all language is vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries and horses are, for conveyance, not as farms and houses are, for homestead. Mysticism consists in the mistake of an accidental and individual symbol for an universal one. The morning-redness happens to be the favorite meteor to the eyes of Jacob Behmen, and comes to stand to him for truth and faith; and he believes should stand for the same realities to every reader. But the first reader prefers as naturally the symbol of a mother and child, or a gardener and his bulb, or a jeweller polishing a gem. Either of these, or of a myriad more, are equally good to the person to whom they are significant. Only they must be held lightly, and be very willingly translated into the equivalent terms which others use. And the mystic must be steadily told, —All that you say is just as true without the tedious use of that symbol as with it. Let us have a little algebra, instead of this trite rhetoric, —universal signs, instead of these village symbols, —and we shall both be gainers.