We all know people who only see the world in black and white, good or bad, yes or no. This is what works for them, always has, always will. End of story.
Makes me cringe a little. How can things be so defined that they do not offer any room for alternatives? And what makes someone so assured of their view, that none other is entertained?
Do their true views hide in the closet? Are they denying their truth in the name of pride, honor, ego?
We know there is an overwhelming sense of honor that is passed down through the generations. It is a tough inherited nut to crack. Going against that grain is often too overwhelming to deal with, so it isn’t.
It is a paralyzing sense of control over what is, as opposed to what could be.
Contrast and Straddling the Fence
I have always been in the camp of what could be, while standing in the midst of what is. A realist and a dreamer.
Internally, I sit on the fence of things more often than not. It comes from my uncanny ability to see from a variety of perspectives. I was gifted and cursed with a sense of empathy towards all parties and angles.
Externally, society insists we take sides and I have, but often with reservations. Changing my mind based on updated information is a right I exercise. Circumstances and context change and it becomes a matter of keeping up.
Some people prefer to rely on previous knowledge and ways of doing because it is comfortable and familiar. We live in a world where that mindset is no longer viable. There is no reproducing those scenes. Unless you live in a bunker or a commune.
I have never been able to function in a box. Preferring to be flexible in the face of what may be possible. That is the dreamer side of me. Not knowing what lies ahead and being okay with that projection.
To not have a definitive answer or stance on something is considered wishy washy. Women are often pegged into this undesirable hole. We intuitively know there is more than one solution to problems and situations that exist. The gray is visible. I imagine many marginalized groups see the world through different tonal lenses.
Contemplation Be Damned
The public does not have time for thoughtful or contemplative responses. Sound bites have taken front stage, due to our reduced attention spans. Our points must be as simplistic as possible with a dash of sensationalism to stir the pot. Political ads are a perfect example.
Details are the unpopular side show.
Unpopular as they may be, minutia does matter because it provides context for what is being said. There are so many examples of how quotes, statements, news flashes, take one sentence, one scene, one comment and blow it up without giving the backdrop or setting the scene. The contrasts are provided but nothing about the how and why. The nuances between the lines in the sand get buried.
The quick feed nourishes many for lots of reasons. Their own lives lack purpose so why not forage off the misfortunes of others. Or they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. More often, they lack the time to research what is being said in order to discover the real story. The real story is in the gray areas.
And once all is said and done, substance is non-existent. People are left with an emptiness that then needs to be refueled. The cycle begins again.
While There Are Extremes, There Are No Absolutes
Contrast is important because the meaningful essence of any thing is defined by its value, properties, or quality relative to something else. That’s right: nothing has much meaning by itself, which is one reason why design is important.
This is such a wonderful quote from an article on design. Leave it to the arts to bring calm to chaos.
The function of contrast in defining meaning can be explained by comparing fundamental opposites: dark/light, soft/hard, fast/slow. Examples like these are useful because everyone understands the extremes they imply, but while there are extremes, there are no absolutes. The values are merely relative.
For instance, a cheetah is generally considered to be fast. But a cheetah is quite slow compared to a jet airplane. So saying “a cheetah is fast” is only meaningful when some relevant context is also communicated or assumed. Contrast and Meaning, by Andy Rutledge, April 24, 2007, published in Graphic Design.
An extreme view has little value without it’s contrast. And even less significance because there are no guarantees. The chess pieces are constantly being shifted on the board. Context is vital. Knowing or seeing the shades of gray in between the black and white add to that realization.
Knowing and Feeling Contrast
Speaking of extremes and appreciating the middle tones, I was born and raised in the frigid northern plains of the midwest. I honestly never enjoyed winter. Still don’t. Too much trouble getting ready to go outside. Gloves impede movement as well as hats, scarves and heavy coats. My body contracts into a stiff maniguin, shoulders hunched, jaw clenched and chattering teeth. Speech is impaired to the point of sounding drugged or drunk. The muscles around my mouth and jaw become so tense simple words are difficult to form with any kind of certainty. Not to mention trying to sound even remotely articulate or intelligent.
When I see meteorologists on the evening news standing in the middle of some arctic region of the country, speaking in some foreign cold weather tongue, I feel the twinge of past winters.
Even now as an adult, living in Oregon, the idea of suiting up for skiing, hiking up to the lift like a overstuffed bear with 25 lb. weights on my feet, gives me a stomach ache.
I rarely feel at ease in the dead of winter or when temps hits below the freezing mark. The only thing top of mind is hibernating.
Although, I do admit when walking my dog early in the Central Oregon morning when winter temps dip below 30 degrees fahrenheit, I feel a certain kind of exhilaration. Like a cold shower (of which I can only handle one minute).
The Forest for the Trees
Seeing the forest for the trees can be difficult when you are saddled with all that extra clothing or the time it takes to get somewhere when the snow plows have not been through your street.
Snow and it’s sideshows are not on “my favorites” lists. But the tonal variations that it provides wherever you are can be visually beautiful. Similarly on gray rainy days.
In nature, contrast produces a view of the bones or the skeleton that you would not otherwise see if in full color and sunshine. It is why I love b/w photography and creating paintings with minimal hues. Revealing what I feel in my bones, the rawness of my soul devoid of color enhanced obstructions.
Extreme contrast is important for comparison, but all the middle tones are what set the stage for the scene.
Photo of my backyard along the Deschutes River, Bend, OR. This was taken November 1, 2022.
Substack – An Artist’s Journey