Golagai 2, from a recent painting series exploring orbs and fluidity

I arrived in Maine 10 days ago thinking a lot about two particular ideas culled from the book This Will Make You Smarter, a compilation of short but provocative answers to the Edge Question 2011: “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”

The first was the answer to that question from Daniel Kahneman (and author of the book I read with fervor last summer, Thinking, Fast and Slow). The “focusing allusion” is that proclivity we all have to distort our read of the world because of a predisposed belief, idea or fixation. In his short essay Kahneman does his inimitable dismantling of common wisdom (for example: “When you think of rich and poor people, your thoughts are inevitably focused on circumstances in which income is important. But happiness depends on other factors more than it depends on income.”) My interest in Kahneman’s focusing allusion is how it operates on a more personal. I shift my view of things constantly based on the last book I read, the last painting I loved, the last compelling analysis of the political landscape. I’m aware that I am susceptible but it happens anyway.

The second idea is from Charles Seife, author of Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception. Seife’s essay is about the concept of randomness. From his essay:

Our very brains revolt at the idea of randomness. We have evolved as a species to become exquisite pattern-finders…Our minds automatically try to place data in a framework that allows us to make sense of our observations and use them to understand events and predict them.

Randomness is so difficult to grasp because it works against our pattern-finding instincts. It tells us that sometimes there is no pattern to be found. As a result, randomness is fundamental limit to our intuition; it says that there are processes that we can’t predict fully. It’s a concept that we have a hard time accepting even though it is an essential part of the way the cosmos works. Without an understanding of randomness, we are stuck in a perfectly predictable universe that simply doesn’t exist outside of our own heads.

Provocative ideas, both. But neither deterred my eyes from seeing the orbs and spheres I have been exploring in my studio everywhere in the landscape of Small Point. Whether micro and macro, they just kept appearing. And delighting me over and over again.

Martin Scorsese once advised a young filmmaker that “your job is to make your audience care about your obsessions.” What a great directive! So with that in mind, I invite you to take a look at one of mine.

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