Fantasy and reality . . . are they really so different? Both are products of our own thinking, fears, and desire. The subtle difference boils down to audience. Reality is the act we play before our family, friends, and other people. Fantasy is the private movie that replays in the minds, shrouded in secrecy.
The interval between events is not insignificant. I’ve come to understand this over the years. Desire is often not enough to create something beautiful or meaningful. Looking back, I see how willful I used to be. I’d toil away at making drawings of people or landscapes. I’d fill sketchbooks to the brim, trying persistently to create a photographic drawing. Persistence can be good when it creates discipline. But too much persistence restrict creativity and freedom.
An Alleyway in Pennsylvania. March 2013.
Like so many other people, I wonder how I’ll every pay off my student loans. I criticize myself for not having understood what I was doing to my financial future at 22, when graduate school was so appealing and the economy was more stable. Thankfully, I have a wonderful job and a plan to fix the mistakes that I’ve made. But staying positive can be challenging. The smallest event can carry me far, far away on a trail of self-loathing and doubt.
Life is spontaneous. It happens by itself. This is one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. While it is good to make plans and set goals, it’s important to make time for life to unfold before you. This isn’t living life according to whim. There is more to spontaneity than caprice and disorder.
As an artist, I can tell you how this is true. I can’t tell you where my ideas come from. They happen spontaneously. It’s difficult for me to approach a canvas or piece of paper with an expectation. When I try to make something specific, it never seems to turn out right. So my approach has been to let the materials “speak” to me. I mix the paint right on the canvas. I see what shapes start to appear on their own.
I sprayed and sprayed several hued paints on this board. I noticed how the colors mixed together, how each can sprayed differently. The only method I had was that I would keep painting until it felt right. I did countless layers of paint. The yard was filled with a thick cloud of fumes that made me dizzy. I stopped and mixed some oil paint with stand oil and dripped it over the board. I started thrashing the paint brush wildly at the board, giggling and having fun at not caring what the outcome would be. I turned the board to let the paint drip from one end to the other. Then I alternated between layers of spray paint and oil paint. From the photos, you can see how wildly different the painting looked at each stage.
Suddenly, almost magically, I knew the painting was finished. There was no way for me to schedule the right amount of time. I just had to feel it. To me, painting is like playing a game. When we play games, we get most fascination out of games that combine skill and chance. Games like poker or bridge. You don’t feel completely at the mercy of chance, and you don’t feel completely at the mercy of skill. It’s exciting and fun to not know the predictable outcome. Order and randomness go together, creating surprise. That’s how I define spontaneity – the perfect harmony of order and randomness.
One of my favorite Buddhist philosophers is Alan Watts. He has a great recorded talk called The Art of the Controlled Accident. He consistently compares Buddhist philosophy to painting. Life should be lived in a manner like painting. You can’t have calculated expectations for everything in your life. You have to approach situations with an open mind, only to search for possibilities and opportunities that present themselves. Never force something. It will only elude you. Instead, take the approach of letting the beautiful things around you emerge on their own. You will be surprised – and happy.
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Here is a synopsis I wrote back in college for a philosophy of physics class. Enjoy!
According to Kuhn, normal science is based on a collective assumption of the scientific community that the world functions in a specific way. This assumption is a paradigm, or a model, for the rest of the community and their successive theories, experiments, and basic way of perceiving the physical world. The scientific community relies on paradigms, and measures all successive theories and discoveries to these pre-existing beliefs. This ridged concept of reality and science makes it difficult for new theories and discoveries to develop, as they endanger the tradition of science and prove the paradigm as erroneous.
Generally, a discovery of some type of anomaly causes a shift in the scientific community, which Kuhn labels a “scientific revolution“. As the term revolution implies, the scientific community is thus held responsible for correcting and reconstructing the entire history of science prior to the new discovery. This is a huge and arduous task, and is met with strong resistance.
Several paradigms exist, creating a school of thought or point of reference. This helps to create questions, methods of evaluating and determining areas of relevance, and help to find meaning in data. These paradigms are crucial in evaluating theoretical models, as well as scientific history, as they are the tools of interpretation and allow its followers to develop a professional discipline.
As I see it, Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions is a logical theory which proves science to be provisional, or in a constant state of flux. Paradigms are crucial in refining and evaluating scientific discoveries, but they also tend to limit and constrict new theories and knowledge of the physical world. Paradigms are historically based, and extremely hard to challenge as they are held to be self-evident and infallible to scientists. However, it is important that people continue to challenge this history and to find and explain anomalies manifest in the physical world. These radical and unusual theories based on anomalies further our understanding and advance our society.