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Archive for the ‘Emotional Perception’ Category

Nice combination, yes? A lovely harmony between the gold, white and beige and a soft contrast with the green. But if we look closely we see that there is also a harmony between the green and the beige and the green and the gold. There is a little bit of each in each.

How about with the addition of the purple, below?

Pure contrast, I am inclined to say, but I wonder. Purple and green are opposites but there seems to be some kind of harmony there too, between the two.

What is it? Actually, the harmony seems to involve the sofa, the green cushion and the purple cushion. What could it be?

Texture. There is a velvety texture in all three, which makes a subtle but pleasant contrast with the gold and white cloth which has a ‘harder’ surface.

The white piping on the green cushion helps the whole scene too by carrying over the sofa and gold and white cloth to that area but especially, it seems to me, by preventing the green and purple from becoming a muddy blend where they meet. The white gives the two ‘pop’ and that bit of separation between the green and purple allows the contrast between the two colors to be more vivid.

It is when there are these combinations of harmonies and contrasts that we derive the most pleasure from a scene or work. The relationships are richer, more satisfying, and that is, after, what we are perceiving – relationships – and we are making those perceptions through our emotional faculties. That is why we feel pleasure looking at such things.

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In a previous post on harmony and contrast I spoke of how we perceive,  ‘read’ and appreciate relationships by our faculty of emotional perception. Here I want to develop this concept a bit more, in regard to plants and how we ‘read’ them.

Rose & Clematis

Every plant is a unified creation with all its parts rising from the same source. The same patterns that appear in the branching appear also in the leaves and flowers. The design of each part is evinced in the whole and the whole is an expression of that basic theme or themes evident in each part and from which all the parts arise.

This could be put in mathematical terms, expressed, for example, in ratios and proportions and fractiles. Or, you could say that every plant is a sort of idea or concept expressed in the parts and overall appearance.

This is why plants affect us by their various perceivable attributes in quite specific ways. We ‘read’ them, generally unconsciously and have a response to them, that may not reach our conscious awareness yet determines how we ‘feel’ about them.

We may have a personal relationship to a given plant, based on our own experience or preferences, for example if a given plant was a pleasant part of one’s childhood,  but in this case our relationship to such a plant is by association, not direct perception.

On the other hand, there are relatively universal responses to specific plants. Consider the rose. It seems to have had pretty much the same effect on most people throughout history. Why is that? Is it knowable? Is there a language that transcends verbal communication by which we may apprehend the ‘meaning of a plant? Actually, yes, how the rose and any other plant affects us and why can be understood and expressed. This post  is about that.

Rose

The Rose, by any other name...

For the most, we will be speaking of entire plants but let’s start here with the most loved flower on the planet (at least in Western cultures).

If a plant or a part of a plant expresses meaning, how is that meaning read, and in what language? That is the question I intend to answer.

And I propose, that a plant expresses meaning through evinced relationships within itself and we perceive those relationships through that one faculty whose sole purpose is exactly that, the perception and expression of relationships – Emotion.

The rose is so overt in its expression of sensuality, sexuality and femininity it nearly makes one blush. The velvety petals unfurled just enough to reveal hidden recesses, their gracefully wavy form, the soft, seductive feel of them – both silky and velvety, and the sheer abundance of them.

The wild rose with its only five petals has not nearly the same effect as this we see here. Abundance, lushness,

Wild rose

softness, grace, indeed, sublimity- yet more still…

The form is so elegant with each petal tucked tenderly between others, harmonizing in line with all the other petals around it, forming toward the center almost perfect form, so recognizable we have the word, ‘rossette’, and at the very center, the baby bud, while the overall form is generally circular yet in the most beautiful of roses, that circularity is interrupted by a wayward petal or two.

The almost perfect form is important. The freedom of form, the inexactness, the asymmetrical quality tells us this is not some mechanical wonder but a living, growing, no two the same creation, so we know that this beautiful creation is linked to us by virtue of being alive and we value it all the more than if it were some man-made creation. It matures into a voluptuous thing of beauty with a perfume that is heady, alluring and so deliciously intoxicating. Everyone who sees a rose stoops to inhale its fragrance, so beguiling it is.

What about entire plants? Can they be read through a perception of their attributes and the relations between those attributes? Consider the Wisteria.

Is it expressing anything? Does the Wisteria have a meaning, an impact, does it create an emotional response? If it does create an emotional response in you, then it is expressing something, and you are perceiving it.

Certainly in bloom as shown here it is beautiful, but why? What makes it so? Here are some of my responses. It is lush, so bespeaks of abundance, of bounty and generosity. (A woman’s breasts are emblematic of generosity nurturing and givingness so I see this as a feminine quality). It is graceful, scintillant and soft so the quality of femininity is enhanced. It is pendulous in both leaf and blossom, and in both leaf and blossom the colors are slightly muted, giving a sense of vulnerability and sensitivity, yet wayward in its vigorous habit, conveying a quality of strength and wildness—of  pagan-ness. All this tells my emotional perception that this is the quintessential romantic plant, full of charm and mystery, of softness and sympathy and vitality. It is the perfect setting for a loving seduction, and that’s not even considering the intoxicating scent. It makes you want to be near it, under it, in it.

More to follow…

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lamp and zen garden

Harmony by Likeness - Click to enlarge

I show this image elsewhere but it is easier to see in this post and this setting. Both the lamp and the Zen garden have been combined to create a pleasant little scene and they work well together.

Of course it’s easy to see why these two items harmonize – the somewhat oriental look to both elements, the stone in both, the shared textures and colors and shapes – all working together to create a fairly dynamic Unity.

Our emotional perception relates these two elements, the lamp and garden by their shared attributes, as mentioned above. We don’t just see, we feel the correspondence, as that is what emotional perception does – perceives relationships. The same process is behind the formation of our human relationships.

I mention this because this is one of the best ways I have found for developing emotional perception – actively looking for and contemplating relationships – of all kinds.

Consider your neighboring couples, for example. Looking at the individuals, taking them in we come to some basic understandings of them as people – He’s kind of serious, not at all frivolous or fun seeking – she is also serious but more open to people, more gregarious … that sort of thing. By intentionally looking at elements, people, pets, already in some kind of relationship we can see (feel, really) what it is about them that is in relation  – and what isn’t. It requires our emotional intelligence to do this and by using it, we develop it. Try it. I think you’ll find yourself at the threshold of a whole new world.

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Art in Ads

beautyandart-wachovia

Jackie was looking through the New Yorker this morning and said, “I don’t understand this ad. This person is leaning over, has thinning hair. And its a woman. I don’t get it. It’s for a securities company.”  I looked at the magazine for a couple of seconds and said, “she’s smart, slightly artsy, successful, reliable, respectable and older…”

I didn’t have my glasses on so didn’t see that she is an architect and has a slight, satisfied but pleasant smile.

Normally we would’t do this analysis but we would see all those things and that would make us feel good about the company the ad is for. We would associate these qualities, smart, reliable, etc. with this company. Precisely the purpose of the ad, aimed at people in that same category or who would like to be.

The recognition of those attributes  is emotional perception, in this case involving the emotional parts of our instinctive and intellectual minds as well as our emotional mind.

This is the sort of perception we have all the time and never realize it. We are constantly assessing aspects of reality through this kind of perception, normally without the subsequent (in this case) intellectual analysis.

This demonstrates the receptive side of emotional perception. Someone had to generate the ad with the creative, or expressive side of the same intelligence. Artists do this all the time.

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This article begins begins here, and continues on with the following:

So, emotions are an intelligence which perceives relationships and which perceptions give rise to feelings, which feelings motivate us to some action or leave us in some state. What does this have to do with art? Everything, as it happens.

I was slightly injured recently and two friends brought me a pot of daffodils. That mere fact told quantities instantly perceived in less than a second. Breaking it out into rational terms I would say that the fact of bringing the flowers said the woman cared for me, her husband felt me a friend. I mattered to them in their lives, and they valued me. The flowers were probably her idea and clearly, she perceived me to be of some sensitivity, (thus I would be cheered up by flowers) and obviously, she was empathetic to my suffering. She felt for me. It also hinted that they would enjoy seeing me and thus enjoyed my company. (They didn’t send the flowers, they brought them.) I could break this down into more detail but you get the point. I knew certain things through my heart without every having had time for a single thought.

But an interesting thing occurred at the same time. I looked at the pot of flowers as I greeted them and, along with the pleasure, I registered a slight, very slight, disappointment. I didn’t stop to analyze why.  I was pleased, I invited them in, we chatted, and so on. Days latter I was looking at the pot of daffodils continuing to be slightly bothered by something and I realized that she must have potted the flower from several bulbs because there was a disharmony in their arrangement. Two groups of blossoms were growing in the same direction, as if oriented to the same light source, but another group was sort of jumbled in there, oriented differently. There was a disharmony. That disharmony was perceived by my emotional intelligence in a fraction of a second and resulted in the emotion of a slight disappointment.  It took my rational mind a great deal longer and by a much more cumbersome process to come to the same understanding. Emotionally I knew what was not right instantly. Intellectually I did not, until I applied rational analysis to my feeling of disappointment.

This is emotional intelligence and is vital to all the arts. It is fast, often comprehensive, can be very deep and as complex or as simple as life itself can be. The particular perception of the disharmony was a very simple act of emotional perception. We are all capable of almost infinitely more complex perceptions through that intelligence.

But why did she chose daffodils? My friend has show stopping gardens replete with hundreds of different species so why this flower when there were many others in bloom? This particular cultivar was the traditional, big yellow trumpet against a backdrop of wide open petals. Emotionally, it reads as a declaration (the trumpet) of guileless (the abandonedly wide open, exposing petals) cheer (the sunny yellow color). The blossoms are angled upward and out, as if in eager communication. The trumpet is fluted, decorated, you could say, as in celebration. It is as well a harbinger of Spring and as such makes us glad. It is simple, honest good-naturedness and good news exuberantly expressed in a flower. The perfect flower for her to bring. My friend didn’t have to think all this, she felt it, knew it emotionally. What action was I motivated to by the perception of these blossoms? To smile. To feel better—just what she and her husband had in mind. And by that twinge of disappointment? Replant the jumbled part, which I did.

dafsbefore

None of this required a single, rational thought. So why bother delving then, into our emotional intelligence? Why not just let it do what it does? Well, there are several answers to that. Apart from the discovery of how fascinating it is to find we have this quick, deep, insightful intelligence active in us, understanding, working with and developing our emotional intelligence proves to be extraordinarily useful, interesting and enriching, particularly when we are engaged in any of the arts, such as garden making. In addition, we’re having feelings all the time and every feeling is preceded by perception of relationships. We are emotionally perceiving things constantly and we normally don’t even know what, though we may find ourselves acting on those perceptions. (Or not. Not all emotions are strong enough to generate activity. Sometimes they simply create a mood or an attitude in us—a relationship between us and something outside ourselves, based on real, knowable emotional perceptions.)

Knowing what we are perceiving can be really helpful in all aspects of our lives. In my book Human Intelligence – Our Four Minds, I will go into much more detail concerning this. Here I will confine my exploration to the arts.

Back to the daffodils, it was the negative function, the ‘something is wrong here’ aspect of my emotions that detected the flaw in the daffodil grouping. That is to say, the negative relationship within the groupings of daffodils was perceived by that aspect of the emotional intelligence which is designed to register negative relationships.

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There has long been a raging debate, are there different levels of art? Is there high art and low art? Is this art? Is that? What is art? There are, in fact, not only many levels but several (and only several) kinds of art. The reasons for this and how it works is the subject of this post.

The human mind is not well understood, by science, at any rate. There are esoteric traditions which understand the human mind quite deeply and differently. One of the most important, possibly the most important thing to understand about our mind(s), because we have several kinds of intelligence, is that our emotional capacity is one of them, and in fact, one of the most powerful of them.

The two most important points to realize about the emotional mind are that every emotion, without exception, from every level, originates as a perception of relationships, and only then is experienced as a ‘feeling’;  and that the range of degrees of complexity from one emotional perception to another is enormous.

Emotions do generate feelings, from the profound and powerful to the delicate and sublime, from the rarefied to the crude and coarse. However, before there is a feeling there is a perception in which the relationships between two or more elements are perceived. We experience the working of our emotional perception as a feeling rather than a perception because the perception is so incredibly quick and fleeting while the feeling lingers, sometimes for mere moments, sometimes for hours or days after the original perception took place. If you had an emotion, rest assured, you’ve seen something – taken in through your emotional intelligence some specific relationship, however simple or possibly very vast.

The residual feeling is a direct consequence of the perception, and is in proportion to the power of the perception and of like nature.  Its purpose is to motivate, so in a sense it is not necessary that we realize what has been perceived because we are generally induced to take action, either internally or externally by the emotional perception and resulting feelings. This is true for all emotions, no matter how rudimentary or sublime. The perception of disharmonious relationships leaves us with a negative feeling, however slight and conversely, the perceptions of harmonious relationships feel good. But there is a great deal more to the relationships we emotionally perceive than harmonies and contradictions.

Although there are many levels of emotions – a gradient, so to speak, from very basic to extremely complex – there are only four kinds of emotion. There is what we normally think of as emotion where-in we say, for example, I’m happy (why we feel happy is explained further on), I like that and so on. There is motor, or moving center emotions having to do with the perception of spatial relationships and the experience of motion. This is often experienced in conjunction with Instinctive, or physical emotions – the perception of danger, physical pleasures and so on. And there are intellectual emotions – the desire for knowledge, the enjoyment of learning, intellectual understandings in which we make connections, the negative mental emotion of confusion in which we are aware of not perceiving a relationship.

What all these kinds of emotions have in common is that they all involve relationships, whether spatial, physical, mental or emotional. In this blog I am going to address only emotional emotions – (sorry, I have no better term for this). It has been our emotional mind, (as opposed to the emotional part of our other minds, or centers) by which art, at least in the Western world and before the turn of the last century has developed, and by which art has been evaluated and appreciated, (again, until the early 1900’s when intellectual and motor center art emerged). Our emotional mind is the mind of the artist.

What does this mean? Simply that emotional perception is responsible for determining the harmony, disharmony or utter lack of relationship between things. All art is about relationships. What is art but the expression and perception of a whole through the inter-relationship of the diverse elements? Why does a work of art, a painting, say, or a flower arrangement or the layout of your own living room work or not work? It is the relations between the parts and the subsequent whole those parts create and support that determines the validity, the quality and the meaning of a work of art. What makes a building beautiful? It is not the windows or the material of the walls, the line of the roof or the placement of the doors but how all these parts relate to one another and to the whole. What makes the Taj Mahal or the Venus de Medici beautiful or any part of those sculptures beautiful? It is the associations between the components and within the elements of the components—the face and all the aspects of the face, the relation of the head to the body and all the parts of the body.  A work of art is successful because all the parts of the whole relate to one another in a cohesive manner and we perceive these relationships, and the subsequent whole through a non-verbal process. Through what I call ‘the mind of the artist’.

What is not generally understood is that when we experience beauty, or pleasure or happiness or irritation or disappointment or delight or any of these non-verbal responses we are not simply feeling something, we are not simply reacting to something, we are perceiving, often, quite a vast lot of something. The mind of the artist is that intelligence which perceives these often very complex relationships and generates the subsequent feelings or sensations we have.

We experience art through our emotions because emotions are central to the creative process and are designed to perceive and experience the resultant relationships that process creates. And if you think about it, it is obvious.

And this is precisely why we so enjoy experiencing art – the act of creating art takes place from our emotional capacity – and yes, there are higher and lower, finer and more coarse dimensions of this capacity, just as we can feel envy or compassion,  and consequently, there are higher and lower forms of art –  and witnessing such art invokes our finest emotional intelligence.  We perceive through the same mechanism what was created by that mechanism, or ability or intelligence. High art elevates and permeates us with feelings of a sublime nature through the process of emotional perception. The higher and finer the art – a composition by Bach or a painting by Vermeer, say—the finer our emotional experience.

Without our emotional intelligence we couldn’t dress ourselves properly (and you have noticed that some are better at this than others, meaning this part of their emotional intelligence is more developed), we could surely not maintain social and personal relationships, which require us to be emotionally aware of others, their states, tastes, etc. In fact, we could hardly carry on in the world at all without emotional perception and for those who are very undeveloped in this regard, getting along in the world is a serious problem. They don’t see what we need to see (emotionally perceive) in order to create and maintain working relationships. Let’s take a specific example of the emotional faculty at work. Next post – Consider the Daffodil.

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