Filters & Naturalness

When I log into my computer, MSN’s landing page appears, and I’m immediately informed about whatever MSN thinks is important in life, which invariably is either politics, crime, or disaster. Disasters vary, but politics is exceedingly predictable. Whatever MSN wants me to think regarding politics is reliably identical to whatever they wanted me to think yesterday — so much so that one can “predict” the “news.”

I was wondering about ways to subvert that morning filter. The idea popped into my head that perhaps I could just make a list of “things to think about,” pleasant things that I might adopt like cognitive trampolines to hop from “whatever I’m supposed to think about today” to something I’d prefer to think about this morning. So, let’s say I decided that for morning I’d think about flowers. Whenever computer surfing seems aimed on getting me to fall into the propaganda filter, I would hop onto a flower instead — rather like a bug. Flowers are a good topic for me. I love drawing them. They feature prominently in my art. The thing would not be to hypnotize myself into only thinking about flowers — though nothing wrong with that — but more just a way of distracting myself from the recipe that is “supposed” to construct my thoughts.

The point is more about CATEGORIES. If one were to make a list of OBJECTS OF THOUGHT, rather like a STILL LIFE of words and ideas, what sorts of things would you choose for yourself? Reading around a bit in Buddhism I’ve lately come into acquaintance with the notion of clearing one’s mind. That seems like an interesting phenomenon too, but tricky to manage. So if you cannot clear away the cobwebs, what about merely choosing the categories for yourself? If one’s mind were presented with a buffet table of interesting items — an organon, a taxonomy — that you prepare for yourself — what items would be there?

Okay. Maybe one is not Aristotle and you don’t want the bother of inventing the system from scratch — rather like someone who isn’t much of a cook and needs the help of various things that come readymade in boxes — but still you go shopping and you select the span of things.

If you select things to think about — even by merely pointing and choosing — you’re mapping out territories in your mind. And what if, moreover, you say to youself, “I’d like to think about something a bit different today,” you have to go looking. You have to FIND new territory. What might that consist of? How do you search out new objects of contemplation? One wants a dictionary. Nature’s dictionary perhaps.

They might be things with names. They might be percepts that lack names. It doesn’t matter. They might be words, in a writerly way of being. They might be sights or sounds … or tastes or aromas, actions, distant memories, reconfigured bits of the past. For some people it might be math — not for me, alas.

Leaves, clouds, shadows, contours, hatchings, buzzing cicada song. Maybe I will contemplate the folds in a cloth and whatever they have to tell me about gravity and light. Maybe a doll in a fancy dress.

Maybe I will think about large amorphous landscapes of places I’ve never been except in dreams or drawings, vivid places composed of the colors I like, dramatic scenes bright with light that would be breezy and clear if I walked there.

Or maybe I’ll think about creamers and tabletops and past conversations and tea times with old friends. Creamers rendered into bright blue lines that curve or intersect in ragged ways. Creamers decorated with flowers.

If you were creating your own taxonomy of thought and feeling, how would you find the categories? How set that table of contemplation? If your mind wants filters, why not choose the filters yourself? The act of choosing is expansive — it enlarges experience, one choice prompts another.

Set that table with the items that suit you, that put you mentally where you want to be.

And if you like this post please SHARE it — particularly so that others might go hunting for items, that they might consider creating their mental schemata to compete rigorously — possibly triumphantly — against the massive social hypnosis that pop culture offers tediously and daily.

Enlarge the cosmos!

the periphery of interest

Contrary to the center of interest is the periphery of interest.

detail potatoes

I was reading a list of forms of cognitive bias and ANCHORING caught my attention. I found it defined as “the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered.” It hinders decision making — and hence invention — by getting a person stuck at square one.

In art, it’s certainly true, that the artist who is too focused on the “center of interest” (or as I like to call it the “nexus of focal attention” or the “convergence of visual acuity” or the “intersection of visual collision” or sometimes as simply “the point of no return”) —  as I was saying: such an artist might fail to see the forest because of the humongous big tree blocking his view when his whole face is covered with its leaves.


I realize I’m babbling — maybe ranting — but I did say that I was turning my blog into a sort of diary.  And in a “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want to” sort of way, I permit myself an occasional rant from time to time.

I don’t like the concept of “a center of interest.”  Does it show? I file it under cognitive bias. I’m glad to see it has a name, anchoring.

The cure is to get the attention moving around again. I like natural attention, myself, that’s my personal preference. Letting your mind move around, willy nilly, as its wont. But if one’s brain has gotten sucked into the vortex, whether that vortex is at the center or somewhere else in the picture, the cure for the bias is to fasten the attention somewhere else. You’ve got to move it around — diffuse it somewhat,  forcibly, if need be.


In my notes, I envisioned a grid — a desperate grid for the really hard cases — and inside each square of the grid you examine that portion of the picture to see what beauties it holds. And no I don’t stop there.


Then you shift the grid a little and you have new passages, and you gaze into those also. And thus the whole image is like a matrix with many doors. Such a picture (obviously this represents an ideal) is like a shimmering tapestry of decisions and observations.

In ordinary time, the simple habit of following your thoughts in the order in which they occur is good enough at last — as a remedy against art books that posit all kinds of rules, the most insidious of which is the center of interest.


I give it other names to diminish its charm. If we call the nexus of focal obsession by its other names — such as, the vortex of visual obsequiousness, then we avoid its becoming stronger by means of the “availability cascade,” the tendency of oft-repeated messages to be accepted as true simply because they are oft repeated.

So, pst!   Ipsnay the enter-cay of interest-yay.