Wednesday, July 29, 2009

some stories bear revisiting

A summer cold is making its way through this house. Nasty little bug making everyone miserable and cranky. Especially bad when it's so bright hot outside.
So there's cold meds, and Twilight Zone marathons and books.

The painting for the World Fantasy Convention cover is going well. There's that. I'm calling it a painting--it has elements of dimension as well.

I've been reading Poe, a sort of refresher to help me prepare for the convention. I've always had a great appreciation for Auguste Dupin and his ratiocination.
(Yes, I know, the 'monkey' did it.)

I enjoyed reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue again. Though a lot of the text was comfortingly familiar, (perfect reading for a summer cold, oddly enough) I was struck by his bit on perception. It seems to be a lot about 'stepping back,' a subject we've discussed often enough here. I think it applies to creativity as well as mysteries:

[Thus there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found. The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies. To look at a star by glances--to view it in a sidelong way. by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina (more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior), is to behold the star distinctly--is to have the best appreciation of its lustre--a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fully upon it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye in the latter case, but in the former, there is the more refined capacity for comprehension. By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought; and it is possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the firmament by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, or too direct.]

I see a great deal of value in this passage, as applies to ideas and observation, academic and personal. It seems worth thinking on and talking about here. Do you have experience with this concept? I remember doing the star thing as a kid, but it seems Poe meant us to apply this vision to more than star gazing. When is it better to view something from off -center, not to analyze, but to appreciate the whole? Is this what Poe was referring to?

ah. Nyquil is kicking in.


Carl V. Anderson said...

When is it better not to analyze? At times I think it could be argued that the answer is 'always'. But I think that depends a great deal on the type of person one is. There are over-analyzers and there are those who never take a step back to live the examined life. Each has its season, I suppose, and probably the most balanced and well-lived life is the one that allows those seasons to happen on a regular basis rather than fighting them.

When it comes to the beauty of creativity in any form I think the reasons behind analyzing the work (be it man-made or in nature) play a large part in whether or not that scrutiny is harmful. There can be a great sense of wonder in examining the minutae of the creative process, but I think the only way to do that without damaging one's relationship with the work is to be able to first step back and appreciate it as a whole.

In the end the ability to examine things from several sides with a joyful heart and a sense of wonder is the way I prefer to try to live. Sometimes it might be interesting to meet the man behind the curtain. Other times I need my Wizard.

I'm sorry summer sickness has infected your home. That's like the ultimate have sunny weather tempting you while seemingly cold weather ailments afflict you. I wish you all a quick recovery and a fast return to frolicking in the pool and gazing at the stars.

Congrats on the World Con cover...cannot wait to see it.

And reading Poe? Can I be more smitten with you? ;)

Benton Warren said...

Wow Carl, what a flirt! :) Though I must say, and I think Lisa'd agree, there's nothing tempting about the deserts sunny summer days!
I agree with the whole concept of don't focus to strongly on the goal, but merely keep moving in the right direction. you could almost say that that's my motto in life... Its the accidental discoveries that you make along the way that often pay off the best anyways. And you wouldn't even notice them if all you did was stay totally focused and you never stopped to look around.

Loraine said...

There's a concept in psychology concerning the proverbial "elephant in the room." If there were an actual elephant on the room, it's usually a room that's rather small for an elephant, and everyone in the room sees only one angle, one perception of that elephant.

When you relate Poe's words to that concept, perhaps it can be perceived that a person's perspective can only go so far, and so they study and analyze the hell out of whatever angle they see, but not being able to see the WHOLE elephant, they can easily misconstrue the facts of what they're looking at. In over- analyzing and looking to closely at details, we could very well be missing the very human elements of beholding and respecting of a magnificent creature, as well as the even more human reaction (commonly lost through over- thinking the situation) of awe: "Wow! There's an ELEPHANT in this room!"

Carl V. Anderson said...

Sorry Ben, can't help but express my affection for anyone who is a fan of Poe! :) If it helps I can be smitten with you too if you are a fan! ;)

"Its the accidental discoveries that you make along the way that often pay off the best anyways. And you wouldn't even notice them if all you did was stay totally focused and you never stopped to look around."

Truer words were never, written. I love the word 'serendipity', and that came to mind when I read the words you wrote.

I think there is a perfect balance between being focused on a goal and being able to stop and smell the roses. Not sure how often, if ever, one achieves that balance, but I hold out hope.