Seeing the Other Side of Things


René Magritte wrote, "To equate my painting with symbolism, conscious or unconscious, is to ignore its true nature. People are quite willing to use objects without looking for any symbolic intention in them, but when they look at paintings, they can't find any use for them. So they hunt around for a meaning to get themselves out of the quandary, and because they don't understand what they are supposed to think when they confront the painting. They want something to lean on, so they can be comfortable. They want something secure to hang on to, so they can save themselves from the void. People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image. No doubt they sense this mystery, but they wish to get rid of it. They are afraid. By asking ‘what does this mean?’ they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things."

"To the extent that my pictures have any value," [Magritte] once said, lobbing a grenade at the experts and explainers, "they do not lend themselves to analysis." He quoted Victor Hugo, "We never see but one side of things." And to this he added, "it's precisely this 'other side' that I'm trying to express."

From "The Artist Who Was Master of the Double Take," by Bennett Schiff, Smithsonian Magazine (September 1992)

Music is More Magical with Understanding

Cottton Top TamarindFrom “Music Written For Monkeys Strikes A Chord,” by Richard Harris, Morning Edition (9.2.09):

David Teie has been developing a theory to explain why music plays on human emotions. His theory is that music relates to the most primitive sounds we make and respond to, like laughter, heartbeats, or a mother's cooing.

Fearful monkey music:

Happy monkey music:

He says, "the paradox is that I distinctly remember thinking once that when they figure out why Puccini makes me cry, I hope I die the day before the news gets out. But the great news about this exploration into music is it's actually more magical and wonderful once you realize how it works."

David Teie Plays the Schuman Cello Concerto in A minor (Mvt 1) with the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, April 2007

See also: Music for Cats

What Could Be Useful About Depression?

Excerpts from “Depression's Evolutionary Roots,” By Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., Scientific American Mind, August 25, 2009:

Depressed people often have trouble performing everyday activities, they can’t concentrate on their work, they tend to socially isolate themselves, they are lethargic, and they often lose the ability to take pleasure from such activities such as eating and sex. Some can plunge into severe, lengthy, and even life-threatening bouts of depression.

Matt exploring Musée Rodin (2005) So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable. Indeed, when you are faced with a difficult problem, such as a math problem, feeling depressed is often a useful response that may help you analyze and solve it...Analysis requires a lot of uninterrupted thought, and depression coordinates many changes in the body to help people analyze their problems without getting distracted...

Sometimes people are reluctant to disclose the reason for their depression because it is embarrassing or sensitive, they find it painful, they believe they must soldier on and ignore them, or they have difficulty putting their complex internal struggles into words.

But depression is nature’s way of telling you that you’ve got complex social problems that the mind is intent on solving. Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it, and they should focus on trying to help people solve the problems that trigger their bouts of depression. (There are several effective therapies that focus on just this.) It is also essential, in instances where there is resistance to discussing ruminations, that the therapist try to identify and dismantle those barriers.


Andrews, P. W., & Thomson Jr, J. A. (2009). The bright side of being blue: Depression as an adaptation for analyzing complex problems. Psychological Review. 116 (3), 620.

La-Porte The Gates of Hell
La Porte de l'Enfer
Auguste Rodin

How to Fly

Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor on trying to explain her song writing process:

“To try to go back and take it all apart, then try to put order on it, is almost not fair to it. Let’s say somebody actually knows how to fly, but people just can’t deal with that, they’re constantly looking, going, ‘But where is the button, the propeller, the jet?’ And eventually the person has to strap on the jet and say, ‘Here’s the button.’ I think that’s what happens with people having to explain their songs. The song was flying, and now I’m being pushed to make up shit about it. Sometimes it’s almost like people take it as an insult, like you’re being facetious or pretentious. Or, and this upsets me even more, people say, ‘Random’, ‘Puts together really cool sounds’. It’s not random, it’s very specific, and when I’m writing it, it feels like life and death. It would be so much more fun if people went, ‘Wow, that’s cool, he just flew.’”

[Thanks JC!]