Monday, June 6, 2016


Feeling to Thinking

When dividing concepts into polarities, the yang-yin symbol should be kept in mind, representing a continuous flow and integration of poles with each side equally important to balanced motion. When contrasting characteristics are sharply divided, value judgments are often applied which hold one side higher than the other. When thinking is held in higher esteem than feeling it is because both are too sharply defined, one idealized and the other relegated to a lesser stage of evolution, ignoring the fluidity between them. Both sides evolved together. Feeling is not just expressing animal needs and unconscious drives, it is an ongoing response to visual structure, whether of our spatial or informational environment. Even when dealing with abstractions we tend to structure ideas in spatial relationships, what is inside or outside a category, above or below in a power structure. It was a natural thing for the vast information resources of the internet to evolve a spatial metaphor where we search among sites, checking maps to navigate. Structure means relationship between things, and the feeling we get when faced with a given structure is the first assessment of the meaning of that relationship. We know a menu as a presentation of choices even if we’ve never seen that particular menu before. Thinking then works out the implications in a specific context.
The advantages of imagery for expressing ideas is evident all over the web. Rhizomatic structures can show multiple interrelationships at a glance. The most heartwarming part of looking at the stats for this blog are the darkened areas that indicate number of viewers all over the world map giving me the sense of being a global citizen communicating with people everywhere. Built on response to spatial surroundings visual understanding is universal. Psychologists point out that “mood congruity” connects new experience to the past starting with the feeling of each new experience. Relevant associations are those with the same feeling, which communicates the meaning it had for us. What something means to us has to do with its relationship to us distilled into an overall feeling about it. Psychology has recognized the importance of understanding feelings but has been limited by the need for words. The field could benefit from using paintings to initiate discussion. Any imagery starts a chain of associations in relation to it that reveal the individual connection with that structure. Art presents the essential structure of feeling. It is the proper resource for learning about where the personal meets the universal.

The flow of thought depends on feeling for direction. Feeling emerges from what we care about and these values influence the idea prompted by a feeling. Pleasure in something might lead to thinking about the source of the pleasure and imagine future scenarios. Pain draws attention to the source of the pain and how it might be remedied. All along the spectrum it’s the feeling that gets attention because that’s what matters to us. The focus of attention becomes the subject of thought. Thought is action, which takes pleasure in itself.

 Children love to answer the question, “What is happening here?” when looking at a painting. They can answer with endless connections providing practice in language and creative imagination. Since the parts of the brain we use are the parts that get stronger, this builds the connections between the hemispheres and strengthens the corpus callosum by connecting a visual experience to a verbal one. Art could help unify the fragmented intelligence coming from multiple streams of information.