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!

rearranging the furniture

lattice sketch #1

After I drew the more elaborate Lattice picture during the concert last night (earlier post), the thought popped into my head that “I could put anything anywhere.”  It’s just a compositional sketch, after all.  Why limit your thinking?  To try out different options, I could rearrange the furniture of things that I knew I wanted in the painting.  I could do it in the most unencumbered and straightforward way possible.

lattice sketch #2

You just ask yourself questions. I begin (it’s an on-going process) by asking myself questions like: “what if I put the fish here?”  “What if I put the owl there?” “What if the fence goes all the way to the bottom?”

lattice sketch #3

“What if the water were flat?”  “What if there were some tall grasses on the lower right?”

And so on.

These might resemble the “thumbnail” sketches taught in art school.  They could not be further removed.  The rearranging of things in the sketches has nothing to do with notions about good design or golden sections or whatever the thumbnail sketches are supposed to help solve.

The little compositional thingies are just visual ways of saying “what if the couch faced the window?” Or “what if we unloaded that stock and bought Company X stocks instead?”  Or, “should we get a dog or a cat?”  “Compact car or sports car?”  “Cupcakes or cookies?”

They are exercises in brainstorming.  They are a visual list.  They are dream narratives.  They are choices.