Thursday, January 8, 2015


Aesthetic Balance

"Nothing is beautiful, only man: on this piece of naivete rests all aesthetics, it is the first truth of aesthetics. Let us immediately add its second: nothing is ugly but degenerate man - the domain of aesthetic judgment is therewith defined." Friedrich Nietzsche

We all make aesthetic choices all the time. We want to relegate this expertise to artists but it is a basic human trait. Choosing your clothes or combing your hair are aesthetic choices.  As the quote states though ideas of beauty are completely a human construct and only in the eye of the beholder. A judgment.  

One of the ways I experience balance as an artist is in an aesthetic sense. While this may seem a little esoteric and hard to apply to everyday life I think there are quite a few parallels. Since my experience as an artist is either as a performer or composer for ensembles the palate is often quite large and at least in ensemble settings you are only a piece of the puzzle. I’ve also found as an amateur photographer many of the same principles to be true when thinking about composing a photo and making choices about light, depth of field, contrast, color balance, etc. The same can be said for any kind of improvisation. Even a conversation is an improvisation.

I have introduced a new word into the mix here. Improvisation. One of the first places I go whenever I encounter a word is the dictionary. The definitions I found for this word made me chuckle out loud. “To compose or perform without previous preparation”... “To compose, play, recite, or sing on the spur of the moment”...  “to make, provide, or arrange from whatever materials are readily available”. My favorite is the synonym “extemporize” 

So why was I laughing? First I found the notion of a lack of previous preparation interesting. In my mind we are preparing for each subsequent moment with the preceding moment. We have been constantly preparing since birth. The second definition is much like the first. The third however might be the closest to my idea of improvisation. In order for us to do something with whatever materials are readily available we have to have prior experience. I really believe we are all always improvising. Throw other people into the mix and things get really interesting.

Millions and millions of things are happening in every moment. Some of them are so microscopic that we don’t even notice. Some however change the course of events. How we react to them is the key.  

One of the central tenets for improvising actors is the idea of “Yes, and”. In an improvised scene, when you are presented with an idea, you agree with it and add on. Yes… and. When I am working with children in a theatre setting I like to make this a central theme. I also like to use it to teach music improvisation. The exact same phenomenon occurs. Idea, agreement, addition. It just happens to be non-verbal. Lately I’ve been trying to also apply that concept to photography. 

In conversation the exact same thing applies. Stephen R Covey has one of my favorite quotes on this subject. "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." If the intent is to reply then there isn't an acknowledgement of the original idea. The "and" is then based on your original idea... and 'round and 'round we go.

How does this apply to the fluid normal? The fluid normal is just that. Saying yes, and. Taking a moment and reacting to it nonjudgmentally then adding to it. Nature is nonjudgmental. Taking every moment as it comes and responding to it. It is not trying to predict the future and not worrying about the past. It is taking every interaction as the most important one. The curious thing is that the only thing we have direct influence over is ourselves. What that means is that in order to change something it means changing yourself.

There are numerous books that have applied the "yes, and" idea to life. What is important as it applies to the concept of the fluid normal is taking every moment as it is and embracing it no matter what it is. That doesn't mean being happy or even saying yes in the literal sense. It does mean accepting it and reacting to it.

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