Magical Thinking

Assuming you stick around, you’ll learn that I think in webs. Pretty much everything reminds me of something else. Sometimes they’re sensible associations, but often they follow a kind of internal logic that only makes sense to me, if at all.

Victorians thought this kind of associative thinking was at best a sign of irrationality, at worst a sign of magic. Both make sense to me, but I prefer to think of it as a sign of creativity. An attempt to derive order from chaos, to articulate the inexplicable, to organize the noise. Then again, maybe that’s not so different from irrationality and magic after all, is it?

Anyway, I’ve decided that if I’m going to do this whole blogging/sharing thing, tangential associations are a skid I’m going to steer into. So, at the end of every post, I’ll include some things that came to mind as I was writing. Sometimes they’ll make sense given the content, often they won’t. Maybe you’ll find them interesting. Maybe not. Regardless, your reaction says more about you than it does about me, doesn’t you think?

Grief, guitars and Guernica:

• Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking helped me through some rough spots this past year. Its exploration of loss, guilt and regret breaks your heart in all the right places.

• One of my favorite things lately is listening to musicians talk about science and scientists talk about music. NPR’s 2010 interview with Brian May is a great example of that intersection.

• I went to an outstanding lecture on Picasso this past weekend. I’ve never been a huge fan, but his prolificacy (50,000 works!) is stunning, as was his fearlessness in attempting everything from Realism to Impressionism, from painting to sculpture. I was probably most taken by selections from his Blue Period; they were paintings I’d seen before, but it felt like I was experiencing them for the first time. Take this one, “The Old Guitarist,” from 1904:

The lecturer pointed out that Picasso’s decision to paint the guitar outside of the blue palate could be interpreted as a comment on the redemptive power of music. Kind of beautiful, huh? (Rotate the painting clockwise 90 degrees for an awesome lesson in perspective and discomfort.)


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