Cognitive Pearl #052 Adar 6, 5775 February 25, 15

If we start from the premise that the greatest, most enduring, and universal human fear is the loss of control, then artistic expression makes sense. Ramachandran observes that all art form, whether visual, musical, and even gastronomic (such as cholent, that ultimate gastronomic treat for this yeshiva bochur) involves distortion and exaggeration. In the volitional distortion of a phenomena the artist gains control over that which he observes.

A simple example:

As a young child, I had a teacher who frightened me terribly. She was cruel and treated us all with much disrespect. It wasn’t shocking therefore to find scribbled in my school notebooks crude drawings of this teacher. Her teeth protruded from her wide open mouth; her hands had claws on them. Quite predictably I also added a tail and some humorous other features. This drawing, while quite far from portraying reality, gave a small sense of control over a situation that was beyond me. 

Control however is much more than adding some humorous distortions to a frightening object. It’s also about mapping out the terrain. 

More on that tomorrow!