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.

drawing from variation

Drawing is like life. Sometimes we sketch something out and it’s amazing, so much better than we were expecting! Other times we work on piece for hours and it still looks like a wreck. There’s that famous story of Picasso, who apparently once drew a photo of a lady for her in 30 seconds, and then demanded a massive amount of money for it. She was outraged! It had taken him 30 seconds! And yet his response was, “It has taken me 30 years to learn how to draw that in 30 seconds”. A lot of people like the flash and dazzle of becoming someone great. But becoming someone great means great sacrifice, all the time, for years. When we work on anything, there’s going to be variation in how it turns out. Like drawing, something it turns out fabulous without effort! Other times? Maybe not so much.

In math textbooks, they usually use data sets that are very clean. A slope is linear, tends to be either strong or nonexistent. Whether it be a parabola, or some a logarithmic trend, they like to use examples where there is a predictable trend. That’s the main focus of statistics, trying to predict where the numbers will end up. And yet, when it comes to things like human actions, it’s not so easy. You can’t plug “stress” into y=mx+b and expect to know when the right time to go to sleep is. Moods go up and down, people around you are affected by their own lives, situations appear out of nowhere! Consistency is a beautiful thing, but frankly, we rarely get it.

There are variations for which we cannot account. There are falls and jumps in the data set of our lives. Sometimes we just have a bad day. Or week. But like drawing, life is something that you practice. Life is art that isn’t quite right just yet. Still, if artists were ever truly done, they wouldn’t be able to make money off of their skill. Each day is a doodle, a sketch in the notepad. Respect that doodle, even if it’s a mess. Remember each mistake brings us closer to another success! There’s going to be variation, ups and downs, before you can see the slope increase overall.

fighting off fantasy

I’ve loved L. Frank Baum’s work for a long time. Part of that journey and experience, however, was the illustrations that came with those books. The drawings are wonderful, a 20s remix of art nouveau and traditional fairytale illustration, full of beautiful youthful people with clear skin, long flowing hair, flowers, and long loose robes. The power of both the books and art was that it transcended the groan and dull of reality. Only beautiful things exist within those creations, with a golden luxury of youth and sense of immorality. It’s the sort of work that makes you forget about all the gritty, ugly details of existence. It’s fantasy, pure and simple.

But why do we care? Why do humans find things beautiful? Why do we long for beauty, and in the end, what is it, really? These are all questions philosophers and scientists debate. It’s okay to desire beauty. Desiring and wanting the attractive things of life is a primary human complusion, it’s not necessarily wrong. However, beauty is important as an extra layer of the cake. Fantasy isn’t inherently wrong, many wonderful things and experiences can come from it.

However, we need to remind ourselves what is fantasy and what is reality. Don’t give up your life for fantasy. Don’t get so caught up in the what-ifs you give up on it ever becoming more than that! Let it be the motivation, not the primary activity of your day.

why is the song ‘good’?

A person’s favorite song says something about them. It shows what they desire to a certain degree. Maybe they want to be admired or loved. Sometimes it connects to how they feel, or a specific time or person in their life. However, mostly, we just like songs because they sound good. Art is similar. Rembrandt’s works are incredibly human, Monet’s impressionistic blossoms catch your eye, and Van Gogh’s work gives you this feeling of awe. History, context, and experience are all important when it comes to liking a work of art, but mostly, we just like them because it looks good. Food can come from a variety of places, appease the different desires of the tongue, but we just want something that tastes good at the end of the day. As humans, we like good things, even when there isn’t deeper meaning to it.

There’s a personality factor called, the “need for cognition”. It boils down to how much the individual likes to think. How much we engage in ‘effortful cognitive activities’ depends on how much we want to think about the world we’re in. For those who don’t need as much cognition, it’s easier to appreciate the ‘good things’ without overthinking it. It sounds good, so they like the song. For other people, that process seems ridiculous. We like things for a reason, after all, and so they are inclined to search out every possibility of a deeper meaning for their preference.

People aren’t robots; we have a wild spectrum of preferences, desires, and proclivities. If we want to be the best we can be, we have to look at who we are. Otherwise you’re comparing oranges to apples. Our need for cognition is a personality trait. It’s not easily changed and doesn’t have to be in order to live a full life. However, it’s helpful to realize where on the spectrum you fall: how much cognition you desire. Sometimes things are just good, and we don’t know the full reasons why. Sometimes things should be given more time and effort mentally. If you know you have a high need for cognition, try to calm your mental world a bit: it’s okay if you don’t know why sometimes. If you have a low need for cognition, maybe challenge your preferences a bit more. Make a change for the better.

 

 

 

Social Media is Fake

Last night, from bits of conversation I accidentally eavesdropped, I heard this comment: “Social Media gives you the illusion that all artists are better than you– but that’s not true.” I think there is a good lesson to this. Social Media doesn’t show you the average. Think about it; we don’t post our normal photos, we post the best ones with the best filters. When an artist becomes popular and has thousands of followers, it’s likely because they are professionals. Those professionals show up easily in search engines and explore pages because lots of people like them and they have excellent work. However, their work is something that took years to cultivate.

 Even if you don’t care about artists at all, think about professional photographers, writers, models etc. What is popular is not always realistic, and rarely is. The more time we spend on social media, the more we spend becoming discouraged. After all, it seems like the world around us is doing significantly better because the extremes are what we like to share and talk about. We don’t see the best photo in the county, we see the best photos in the nation. It trivializes effort if your not careful, because one begins to think that 1. What they see is easy or 2. They can never achieve that level.

Life is hard, and it’s hard for everyone. Trying to compare who has it worse is a waste of time because you’ll never truly know. Furthermore, if someone is really suffering, we should be trying to help them, not feeling bad that they’ve experienced a worse fate than us. What we see isn’t always the truth because there is more to it that we cannot see. Keep your eyes open then, try to remind yourself that a lot of your feed is likely an illusion. It does not represent the average. You are doing just fine, keep going! Keep progressing! Let the work of others be inspirational, not detrimental to your personal journey of growth. 

Halloween isn’t about death in practice, but you can use it to kill off the problems between you and those you care about

Happy Halloween! For a holiday associated with death, dark creatures, and general wickedness, the majority of people have a fondness for halloween. It’s like horror movies- you don’t like the vicious creature that’s slowly hunting everyone down, you like the thrill. And Halloween is a thrill! Operating at night, talking strangers out of their candy, masking your identity: these are all pleasurable activites because they are customs that we take part in as a community. 

For some, Halloween is just an excuse to party. However, the importance of the holiday isn’t that it’s celebrating creatures of darkness, but that we are celebrating a time together with people we care about in a light hearted manner. The features of the holiday are creepy, but sometimes creepy is fun! It’s an aesthetic that marks it apart from the rest of the year. It has a sort of childlike glee compared to Valentine’s day or Thanksgiving. 

Whatever your views on Halloween, just remember that it’s a holiday. At the end of the day,  it’s not about some costume or summoning demons, but about having an excuse to be with the people you love, sharing in traditions you care about. Even if you hate everything about this night, don’t close yourself off! Sometimes you need to shake things up from the routine.

Make your life your novel

 

Almost everyone has tried to write a book at some point in their life. It might be three pages long and half developed or it might be a full three page novel they can’t stop editing. If you ask someone what they would like to write a book about, practically every single person can think of something they’ve secretly been working on mentally. However, there obviously isn’t a book on the shelves for every person who wants to write one because they usually don’t even find their way onto paper.

There’s lots of reasons why a book doesn’t come into fruition. The person forgets the idea, they discard it, life gets in the way and they don’t work on it, they complete it and never get it published, they try to get it published and no one wants it; there’s so many things that can sway a book from publication. The big factor, though, is the individual who wants to write it. We don’t write books because we usually don’t have the self-control to do so. It’s not that the idea isn’t big enough, or that the plot isn’t developed enough. It’s the fact that we have to put our heads in the game on a daily basis and work on it until we make the idea big enough and the plot developed enough.

Not everyone is a writer, and not all writers are good at what they do. Writing is an incredibly difficult task, trying to get at the barest bones of communication. You don’t have to work on a book in order to feel successful in life, but we could all improve our self-discipline. It doesn’t matter what you want if you don’t do anything to get it. In some areas, writing a book is easier than other tasks because you can measure how much you’ve done through page number, word count, or chapters completed. So give yourself a measure! Make a checklist and fill out your goals. Don’t let your ambitions be unrealized, but seek them out every day, because every day is a gift.

What does your face look like?

We only see the mirror view of ourselves. Others get to see all angles of our faces, but we are limited in seeing how we really look on a daily basis. That’s why seeing a video of yourself is such a peculiar event; you are suddenly the onlooker of your own actions. But what is it like for a stranger? What parts of you are most salient? What aspect of your face do people focus on?  It’s important to think about because perspective because we get really caught up in our own heads sometimes.

The fact is, we dwell on certain things. We get bored and start thinking about tasks that aren’t necessary for survival like the humans we are. However it also means that when anything occurs, we are looking through a subjective lens. The faults we see may not be obvious to other people. The beautiful parts we see might also be hidden. We are used to our own standard of features, people, places, emotions, and we compare everything to it,  but it remains an unquantifiable bar. 

All of this is just to say that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same experiences. Not everyone sees what you see. To some people, our noses might be the first thing they think about. To others it might be our forehead or chin. When frustrations arise, try to look on as an outsider. Try to bend your mind. You don’t have to agree, just get out of your own head for a little bit and you’ll find that it shows the other person a great deal of respect.

Make music but make friends first

As physics has progressed as a field, we’ve gradually realized that basically everything is made of waves. Light, gravity, even physical objects are frequencies in some aspect. So actually, it makes sense that sound waves connect to us, because that’s the nature of our reality. Somehow mixes of rhythms and notes with a variety of volumes can speak volumes to our sense of self. Music is the closest thing we have to magic, and it can be absolutely amazing. The focus word there is “can”. If you’ve ever heard any normal children’s choir, you can attest that not everyone can reach the level of magic through music. 

What’s even more amazing is the parents somehow seeing past the horrid screeching at looking at their child with pride. Here you have something that can move people to tears, inspire billions, convince people to give up higher paying jobs, and instead it’s a wreck. But it doesn’t matter because it’s parents caring about what their children do.

Music is incredibly important, in so many ways. Yet it’s power depends on making us feel connected to other people. Songs are great because the emotions it gives you make you feel less alone in feeling them. As to say, music is great because it means that people have felt the same way you have. We need people. We need annoying people to remind us that patience is a virtue. We need beautiful friends to encourage us. We need authority to keep order and challenge when corrupt. There are lots of marvelous things, topics to delve into and analyze, but we should never forget that things aren’t as important as our relationships with others. 

A kind of battle cry

Today is a good day. Sometimes that doesn’t even have to be true, but you have to say it, and furthermore, you have to believe it. There’s this kind of advice: even if you feel bad, don’t look bad. Its this idea that if you feel aboslutely horrible, if you take the time to put effort into what you wear, you’ll feel better. It’s a battle cry of effort, I will not be defeated by my exhaustion! Even if it doesn’t come out through physical apperance it’s important to care about living your life, especially when it’s hard. 

One of my favorite songs is Nat King Cole’s “Smile”, and one of the lines is this, “when there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by”. As to say, sure. Life isn’t perfect. There are so many people who are hurting and struggling. However, if we give up when the going gets hard, we’re letting our true potential slip by. Our ability is not determined by talent alone. Honestly, at the end of the day, talent means very little. What you can change is the part that makes the most difference: your effort. 

You can’t live at 100% all the time, but we can usually give at least 5% more. And if we decide to not put in that effort, we find ourselves in a cycle of stagnancy. If it’s difficult, you’re getting somewhere, so keep fighting. Today is a good day.