"Nothing is the Same"

October 16, 2018

         You can argue that an assembly line is capable of manufacturing thousands of rubber ducks that are completely and undeniably identical, and you would not be wrong.  But I am not here to argue whether or not two tangible items are identical in every way (which I firmly believe they are not), I am here to propose the idea that nothing is perceived the same.  

        I am building on the base of perception, the very idea that no two organisms can perceive life in the same exact way as another.  Therefore, it is wrong for us to try to unify and constantly itemize two tangible objects, thoughts, experiences or even emotions as the same when they are inherently not.  And should rather be compared to each-other as mutual, never identical.  The idea of comparing however is not something that I shame, in fact I encourage, for it allows us to further understand our differences as-well as help find our similarities to create a common connected ground.  

       

       For example, let us take Picasso's blue period and select “The Old Guitarist” which is one of my favorite paintings of all time. It is in simple terms a depiction of (yes you guessed it!) an old man kneeling on the ground playing his guitar, fairly self-explanatory.  (It is currently on display in the Art Institute of Chicago, a generous donation from someone wealthy whose name I cannot remember but had the heart and ego to aid in externalizing art and history.) There are several layers to this argument that “nothing is the same” so let’s start at a superficial level and work our way down to psychological and social.  

 

        Let’s build an analogy where two men are in the gallery viewing Picasso’s works at the same time.  What do they see when they arrive at “The Old Guitarist”? At the surface, no two men can view this masterpiece and say with 100% certainty that they saw the same thing.  Yes, they did both view the same painting, but did they perceive the same elements? Is the blue that the first man saw the same as the blue that the second man saw? We can calibrate the human eye but we cannot with absolute certainty say that all of humanity sees the same colors.  Right off the bat we have an initial idea of superficial perception that becomes unique, individual to the viewer. That under the same lighting and at the same time two men, even a full room of unique individuals, can see a slight difference in the colors that Mr. Picasso used from the man next to him.  Taking it to an extreme, what if one man was elderly and in his old age the lenses of his eyes have yellowed and caused everything he sees to have a yellowish tint. Or what if another man was color blind and incapable of restringing a hue of blue that the majority of the population is capable of seeing.

 

       Next, what if we were to give these two men a paper and pencil and ask them to draw the painting they had just seen from memory, and for fun let’s say that they both studied under the same professors and graduated from the same creative art university at the same time, they are of similar skill level.  Is it possible for us to ever expect the two men to draw the same depiction from memory? One man might have looked longer at the guitar and therefore registered it to memory and his depiction has a far more accurate rendering of the original guitar. And what if the other man spent greater time studying the way Picasso drew the old man’s eyes and therefore his depiction has a greater amount of depth and accuracy in the facial features.  Yet again we have a difference in perception and experience. These two men looked at the same exact paining and for the same duration of time, still each of them saw something different that interested them and came away with a different memory of the painting.

       

       On a more psychological note, let’s continue this scenario and why don’t we discuss the experiential value of what is happening here.  This time let’s set up the absolutes as such: the painting is Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”, the two men view it at the same time on the same day for the same amount of time.  The painting and its physical appearance is the same in the eye of both men, but their experience with it is unique and different. The first man might feel a sense of isolation and empathy for the figure depicted.  This painting may resonate some form of calm serenity as he can nearly hear the music that this blind old man is playing in the streets. While the second man might be evoked with wild sorrow and brought to tears as he is reminded of his late father or grandfather who looked like the guitarist.  Or perhaps his mother who he loved dearly had a poster copy of this painting that hung in their family home and upon seeing the real painting he became overwhelmed with memories and emotions from his past. In this, both men perceived a different experience when presented with the painting.

       

       I am not saying that all men have such reaction, but all of man has a unique idea and emotion and memory connected to art.  Therefore, nothing is unique. A painter can not paint a masterpiece with the motive of making his audience laugh, it is out of the artist’s control what the viewer feels and sees and takes away from their work.  No two men are the same, and no two perceptions are the same,

Even when speaking with friends of like mind about a mutual topic, their life experience and unique mind will know the topic and perceive its gravity differently, even if they describe it audibly the same way as you or another man does.  It is what makes humanity so amazing, no one experiences the same life. Not even identical twins down to the fingerprint will know everything and feel everything that their counterpart does. Humanity is wild, and wildly incapable of replicating events and ideas and objects.  Not even in nature do we find any two snakes with the same pattern of scales or two zebras with the same stripes or even trees that grown with the same limbs and branches. All of life is unique, extremely able at mimicry but incapable of duplicating. Nothing in life is the same, and for that we are so beautiful.

 

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