are you more of a Rothko or a Magritte?

When we think of art, we tend to think of something visual. A blue sailboat on a blue sea under a blue sky. Sometimes we may think of abstract sculptures, but even with those pieces, there is a tendency to think of them as their shape only. Part of what makes art fascinating, however, is even our traditional sense of what ‘art’ includes so much more. The texture of paint, brushstrokes, all add a three-dimensional aspect. The materials used can change our feelings towards the same object. The smells of paint or old books add to our understanding of a piece. Those who argue cooking is an art form can incorporate taste as part of their work. When we understand art, we understand it through any means of sensations, even if it’s not an overtly conscious choice.

Our understanding of ourselves is both limited in that we can’t see ourselves from the perspective of everything else we lay judgment on, and unlimited in that we are the only human that knows what it’s like to be us. Sometimes we need to ask if we’re seeing ourselves with a single sense. If art that is lifeless shouldn’t be boiled down to looks alone, then why do we have the desire to do the same to something that is living? We have to approach our understanding of ourselves like we do a work we see in the museum. What section are we in? What time? What author? Without context, how can hope to understand why we are the way we are?

Explanations aren’t justifications. Understanding how someone, for example, became an abuser or a killer doesn’t make what they did right. Knowing how you developed a problem doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to solve it. Even if you understand how a work of abstract art was meaningful for the time, you don’t have to like it. However, when we put things into context, it can make us think a little more clearly, and by thinking clearly we can figure out where and how to fix the situation. Say you look at yourself like a work of art and still don’t like what’s going on. That’s okay. We can improve. Even as we have our eye on the future, we can still realize that there is something in each of us to be grateful for. We can be both improving and appreciative of our strengths. Like art, sometimes things aren’t clear or even good, but they can have value anyways.

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