Television is a new, hard test of our wisdom. If we succeed in mastering the new medium it will enrich us. But it can also put our mind to sleep. We must not forget that in the past the inability to transport immediate experience and to convey it to others made the use of language necessary and thus compelled the human mind to develop concepts. For in order to describe things one must draw the general from the specific; one must select, compare, think. When communication can be achieved by pointing with the finger, however, the mouth grows silent, the... Read more »
Orderliness by itself is not sufficient to account for the nature of organized systems in general or for those created by man in particular. Mere orderliness leads to increasing impoverishment and finally to the lowest possible level of structure, no longer clearly distinguishable from chaos, which is the absence of order. A counterprinciple is needed, to which orderliness is secondary. It must supply what is to be ordered.
No longer can we consider what the artist does to be a self-contained activity, mysteriously inspired from above, unrelated and unrelatable to other human activities. Instead, we recognize the exalted kind of seeing that leads to the creation of great art as an outgrowth of the humbler and more common activity of the eyes in everyday life. Just as the prosaic search for information is "artistic" because it involves giving and finding shape and meaning, so the artist's conceiving is an instrument of life, a refined way of understanding who and where we are.
The dance, just as the performance of the actor, is kinesthetic art, art of the muscle sense. The awareness of tension and relaxation within his own body, the sense of balance that distinguishes the proud stability of the vertical from the risky adventures of thrusting and falling--these are the tools of the dancer.
What, then, is the basic difference between today's computer and an intelligent being? It is that the computer can be made to seebut not to perceive. What matters here is not that the computer is without consciousness but that thus far it is incapable of the spontaneous grasp of pattern--a capacity essential to perception and intelligence.
Some popular quotations smell of airless closets. They exhale the stale imagination of the intellectual lower middle class. "Suspension of disbelief" has become one of them. Dressed up as a scintillating double negation, it serves the pedestrian notion of art as illusion.
It would be most wholesome if for at least twenty years art historians were forbidden to refer to any derivations. If they were not allowed to account for a work of art mainly by tracing where it comes from, they would have to deal with it in and by itself--which is what they are most needed for.
But art not only exploits the variety of appearances, it also affirms the validity of individual outlook and thereby admits a further dimension of variety. Since the shapes of art do not primarily bear witness to the objective nature of the things for which they stand, they can reflect individual interpretation and invention.
The experienced physician, mechanic, or physiologist looking at a wound, an engine, a microscopic preparation, "sees" things the novice does not see. If both, experts and laymen, were asked to make exact copies of what they see, their drawings would be quite different.
Both art and science are bent on the understanding of the forces that shape existence, and both call for a dedication to what is. Neither of them can tolerate capricious subjectivity because both are subject to their criteria of truth. Both require precision, order, and discipline because no comprehensible statement can be made without these. Both accept the sensory world as what the Middle Ages called signatura regrum, the signature of things, but in quite different ways.
Now the work of art also represents a state of final equilibrium, of accomplished order and maximum relative entropy, and there are those who resent it. But art is not meant to stop the stream of life. Within a narrow span of duration and space the work of art concentrates a view of the human condition; and sometimes it marks the steps of progression, just as a man climbing the dark stairs of a medieval tower assures himself by the changing sights glimpsed through its narrow windows that he is getting somewhere after all.
From building a fire one can learn something about artistic composition. If you use only small kindling and large logs, the fire will quickly eat up the small pieces but will not become strong enough to attack the large ones. You must supply a scale of sizes from the smallest to the largest. The human eye also will not make its way into a painting or building unless a continuum of shapes leads from the small to the large, from the large to the small.
Climbing is a heroic liberating act; and height spontaneously symbolizes things of high value, be it in the value of worldly power or of spirituality. To rise in an elevator, balloon, or airplane is to experience being liberated from weight, sublimated, invested with superhuman abilities. In addition, to rise from the earth is to approach the realm of light and overview. Therefore the negative overcoming of weight is at the same time the positive achievement of enlightenment and an unobstructed outlook.