A Masterpiece

You’re probably like me. You believe that you’re capable of building something perfect. Elegant in ways previously unimaginable. That it will spring forth from your mind and into the world, whole, as if a Platonic Ideal manifest. That the world will immediately recognize in it beauty and grace. Perfect. Immutable. A masterpiece.

Our mere humanity stands in stark contrast. As time presses forward our bodies constantly renew their cells. The Ship of Theseus returns again to port. The artifacts we produce are rebuilt in whole or in part. The world of which we are part changes underneath our every footstep.

Technology has given us the power to make the world in our image. We see the artifacts we create as the goal. We cast our own shadows on the cave wall and call them a masterpiece. We draw lines in the sand between us and those who would challenge our position. We imbue competition with unassailable virtue.

As a technologist working in JavaScript since 2006 I have seen many things come and go. Things once hailed as conquering heroes now sit diminished upon their thrones. We choose our tools for reasons of fleeting fancy. We tear each other down in proxy wars over the artifacts we produce.

Our time is brief. We may only spend it once. We argue over details which will be lost to the aether. The code we write is ephemeral. In time it will be rebuilt in whole or in part. And yet my contemporaries will ever be the same.

In building open source software the ends do not justify the means. Our success comes not from the longevity of the artifacts we produce but the community which we create. My proudest accomplishments are not the code I’ve written; they’re in working with a community whose values I share.

What we build is less important than how we build it. And who we build it with. Work to create a community. Let that be our masterpiece.