Dialectics

My boring life

I went through a photography phase. At one point I put a few of what I thought were good shots in a little book and showed them to my friend Cheryl (hi, Cheryl!). I stupidly expected effusive praise, but what I got was thoughtful criticism. She said “all your pictures have two things in them. You should try taking pictures of three things." She was right, all my pictures contained two things. I came to see that what fascinates me is what goes on between two different things (objects, forms, textures, colors, people, etc.). I like to frame things as two-sided conversations. I never took Cheryl's advice, and I probably never will (though maybe I should).

The basics

It's not just visual stuff that I tend to see as conversations. My writing tends to follow this same pattern. It's all about capturing the nature of a relationship (between two things), as revealed by the conversation between them, or what we might even call the “intercourse” between them.

So, in this website, you may notice a lot of page titles like “this vs that” or “this/that” or “this and that.” That's how my mind works. I imagine I'm digging down beneath the surface, to discover deeper and deeper truths. The nearest to that I can accomplish is to find pairs of things, dichotomies or dualities, that seem to me so fundamental that I can't go any deeper, at least for now. Every pair of things can be a conversation, or a dialog, or a dance. A living process, not a static thing. To make myself sound smart, I use the word “dialectic.”

We can think of a pair (of things, or opposite qualities, or whatever) as forming an axis between them. Then picture any number of such axes intersecting, each axis represented by a spatial dimension. It's easy to picture this for one-, two-, or three-dimensional space. If we increase the number of axes to more than three, it's a little harder to imagine, but the same principles apply. Any phenomenon can be thought of as being in one unique location in some n-dimensional space.

Another way to think of these dialectics is suggested by this set of three words: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The first two are the poles of a dialectic. The third (the synthesis) is the quality of the conversation between them. Sometimes when two people talk, they agree completely, and sometimes they disagree completely. Those are the boring situations, and fortunately they don't happen often. Usually we find that we partially agree with the other person's point, and that's when things get interesting.

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