Dancing Fool

The 18th century Irish bishop and philosopher Bishop Berkeley was rather ahead of his time in asserting that the entire cosmos is a construct of our minds, and that there is no material reality. Neuroscience and some current philosophy might agree. Science regularly shows us that things are not what they seem. Alan Lightman in The Accidental Universe writes: “Since Foucault, [we have found that] more and more of what we know about the universe is undetected and undetectable by our bodies. What we see with our eyes, what we hear of our ears, what we feel with our fingertips is only a tiny sliver of reality. Little by little, using artificial devices, we have uncovered a hidden reality.” I thought of this at a dinner party recently, as our conversation was about ghosts, UFOs, strange intimations, communications with the dead. Lightman says, “The laws of nature satisfy a deep emotional need for order and reason and control.” But we do love our ghost stories. And I thought of this also when I was thinking about how brain science and psychology is showing us that, e.g., our response to trauma can take predictable paths. Think of Kubler-Ross’s well documented and oft cited 7 stages of grief. The furrows created in our brains by chemical reactions to stress steer us down repetitive and predictable behavioral responses. Maybe art is how we can truly surprise ourselves. We learn rules then gleefully break them, encounter the strange, push the limits of the beautiful, make touchable the ineffable, make vivid our terrors, voice the inexpressible, dance with our ghosts.

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2 thoughts on “Dancing Fool

  1. Love the thought that art frees us from the furrows of our brains. Your penchant for reading the great philosophers continually impresses me. You do people like me a great service by giving them to us in small, digestible bits. Thank you.

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