New artwork up in the traditional gallery:
If you want to truly understanding an entity, must you understand it in a vacuum or in relationship to the things surrounding it. Put differently, if you want to truly understand something, must you understand it in or out of context?
Typically, the answer most people look down on is out of context. The answer considered more mature or more accurate is “in context.” But the truth is neither answer is correct. The only way to truly understand something is both as an entity unto itself and in relationship to everything around it.
Some people would answer out of context if they’re versed in the concept of Plato’s forms. The short version of his theory is that the absolute, pure form of any given entity exists outside of the universe and can only be understood by a philosopher through contemplation. All the instances of that entity we observe are only flawed knock-offs of the “form” of the item.
On the other hand, the argument goes that nothing exists in a vacuum, and its relationship with other things is what gives it its meaning. The fact that we have legs isn’t important, it’s the fact that those legs enable us to walk in a universe with a ground that is important.
It’s true that understanding our relationship with our environment is critical to understanding ourselves, but at the same time, we exist in ever-changing contexts, and we exist in motion. The world will be a different place tomorrow, and vastly different in twenty years, and so our relationship to the world around us at this moment will be less important. Understanding a person as an entity unto itself enables us to see possibilities, and initiate change. It is then we see the minerals as not just part of a mountain, but objects that can be used to make metals, become swords, vehicles, buildings. If we understand a person in a vacuum, we can better grasp they’re relationship to the realm of the future.
And as we exist in multiple worlds, influenced by multiple contexts in both the realm of the “real” and the realm of the possible, it becomes evident the common aspects of ourselves that become evident in spite of changing concepts point to our existence as being more than just a cog in a system.
Perhaps we have to experience multiple contexts to truly discover our own existence. Or perhaps it is only by walking amongst various worlds that you free yourself from being merely a part of any of them.
All images are (c) Earl Isbell
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