The Loop of Misconceptions

Misconceptions Lead to False Assumptions

By: - Jan 12, 2015

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Misconceptions Lead to False Assumptions Which In Turn Loops Back to Misconceptions.  

I am just about to go to the Watershed to meet a friend for a beer. But before I head up there, I thought I owe you an explanation as to why I think knowledge, like breathing, is vital to life. As we all know knowledge brought us all the advancements in medicine technology, higher standard of living, and so forth. But the knowledge I am talking about is the personal knowledge we identify with daily. When we interact with others we don’t ask ourselves what we mean by saying “I know something,”  “I know what you mean”, or “I know why I like it” we take it for granted that we know.  For a vast majority of people it never occurred to ask what does “I know” means, or ask is it based on some misconceived notions lodged in our brain? So, I ask you, how could you say I know something with certainty? Sadly enough, being aware of how truth is formed in our heads and understanding what we say is neglected by our friends, artists, educated, uneducated, in short society as a whole. 

Joe was already sitting with a beer in his hand.  He looked at me and asked if I want one, I said “no thanks, I already ordered.” We toasted each other, clicking our glasses together. How was your trip around the world? I asked? 

“Well, well, well, very successful. I ended up with a show in London, including a TV interview.

 These are all the new paintings of the coast of England?

“Yes, these series of painting are new for me. I got really fascinated by the geology of landscape, and how it is shaped by forces of nature--unfolding the landscape inviting the viewers to consider their relationship with the physical world. Trying to understand the book of time, I began exploring, first, the coastline of England, and from there to Brazil’s Fernando De Noronha and on to Rhodes island. Everywhere I went the food was superb. ”

 How was this received in London?

 “Quite well, I sold half of the show on the first day; which didn't deter some critics to mention how deeply I am influenced by their beloved Ben Nicholson, Victor Pasmore, among others.”

Then Joe calmly said, “Last time we met here, the girl you were with, for some reason did not like me.”

Yes I noticed, she has very strong views about people who seem to express unsubstantiated views, well, ideas about art or any kind of social issues that crop up in conversation

“Look” Joe said, “I have been actively painting for about forty-four years—

My paintings, specially my early oeuvre, depicts open meditative spaces, simultaneously displaying multi levels color-coded planes. I overlay inscriptions that have no literal significance. My works concern the emergence of symbols born out of the suspension of meanings.”

Joe! Yes that’s fine, but when I look at your paintings I don’t see anything resembling the things you are describing. For instance, you say, “My paintings depict open meditative spaces,”

 I understand that you are honestly believed in what you are saying, but, at the same time, you are doing a good job in shielding yourself from reality. Your visual and verbal language does not belong to the 21st century. Did you know that there are computer programs out there that can do anything you can without mentioning feelings?

“As you well know, he replied, “I also spent time in India and I have degrees in philosophy. I explored and studied topics such as relativism, rationality, interpretation, cultural identity, metaphysics, creativity, interpretation of music, you name it.”

Joe, you are not answering my question. What do you mean by ‘My paintings depict open meditative spaces?’ You take it for granted that everyone knows the spaces you are talking about. Is there any space that you can with certainty point out to?

“You will not understand unless you study Eastern philosophy, and see that we and nature are one”

 Let’s not lose our focus, eastern philosophy is just a veil of red herring.  I would like you to explain why what you are saying bears any truth, I said.

Joe almost lost his temper, “No one had ever, ever asked this kind of a question! I am surprised to hear it from you. Besides, isn't it obvious? Billions of years of evolution made us who we are, what we are. There are evolutionary reasons why we have emotions, aesthetic values, and morality"

Joe! I felt like screaming, I am not impressed. You are not telling us anything new. You are still avoiding answering my question. Did it ever occur to you that your ideas are borrowed, and that you are rehashing jaded old ideas? Evolutionary speaking they are now mere relics. If it’s any consolation to you, you are not alone.

Joe tried hard to conceal his annoyance.

Then I said, I am sorry but your ideas, like a lot of many other people, are the results of misconceptions, misinterpretation, and misunderstanding. Your views are false because they are based on faulty thinking or understanding. You believe in your inalienable right to remain, who you are, as you are, because you are perfect.

Joe took a deep breath, “your statement underestimates my knowledge of modern art history-- Contextually we are not on the same plane.”

Joe, yes we are not on the same wavelength, you are content with things as they are—good or bad. With all due respect, what you know is not disputed. But your beliefs are stubbornly lodged in your head.  What I am saying is that you are lost in the crevices of the things past. Your paintings are nice but they are, like most art today, derivative--.

“Where is this girl of yours, I see you need her help,” Joe interrupted with a smirk.

She is on assignment studying, Maarifa, a new country that is experimenting with a new social order. Maarifa means knowledge. When she comes back we shall get a firsthand account. 

Well, just not lose truck; you were saying I “underestimate your knowledge of modern art history.”

Joe looked contemplative for a second, and then said, “art isn't something out there…It is not an image, it’s an inner experience.”

Again you are missing the point. You are uttering words, words like experience without considering the evolutionary history of this inner experience, and how it came about, I said.

Joe got impatient, “who on earth asks themselves such questions?”

I do! Every day I learn something new, every day I question my assumptions. And do you know why? Because fooling myself and others, is not an option!

“Well,” Joe said, “I am not interested in outside knowledge. What excite me are wide horse-hair brushes and the thinner ones that are made of the hairs of deer, elk, and fox. They have a life of their own, they guide me, and they guide my hands, my identity.”

Joe, there is no inner without an outside, and they are intrinsically related. The notion of the inner is based on beliefs and misconceptions, a notion rampant across the globe. And if it is any consolation to you, you are not alone. Take, for instance, Daniel Dennett, I watched him give a talk on Ted, though I respect his philosophy; his meticulous and in depth analysis of contemporary thoughts, I think he too misses my point. He said that there are things in life such as music (Bach), esthetics, art (Rembrandt) and so forth that he is enamored with. He seems, in this instance, to overlook the brain’s role in forming emotion, desires, music, and art.

“I think it’s great to hear from such a heretic“, Joe barged in.

You are both missing a very important point, I said. If you did consider finding out what it is that makes us respond to these kinds of feelings, and where such faculties originate--.

Joe interrupted again, “I know what you are going to say, it originates in the brain.”

It’s not as simple as that, I replied, you have to consider everything that factored into the shaping of who we are and why we respond to art the way we do. But it seems you are more comfortable with continuing forever to blubber out ideas that have no basis in reality.

Well, Joe, disagreed, he thought I am going bonkers. He called my ideas Sci-Fi.  I told him my ideas are not easy to accept because they question the very essence of our beings; he can’t imagine how anyone dare tell him to relinquish everything he is and everything he knows: his experiences, his feelings, his memories—the building blocks of his identity. Well, such fear is a human indisposition, I said to him.

Joe got up and was about to leave…

I called, please test the heuristic by asking yourself: “how do I know that?”

As Joe was walking out, I recited, “true wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”  Socrates  

Footnote: My perspective is different from everyone around me. Maybe, it’s because I was born in another world, an island that is now extinct, and I am still grateful to my adopted parents. And let me tell you, art should be a conduit to knowledge.