I think that this is a question that is very much worth discussing these days. Art related programs are being cut back in academic programming,  one of the reasons being that in this day and age more rationalistic and reductionist processes, explanations and understanding is more valued than artistic expression. The amount of funding for these various programs reflects this. Is there a  different benefit in the different forms of expression that we use to capture our understanding and experience? A more conventional explanation would be that there is an advancement and/or growth that is realised in the human way of intellectual engagements. It is not so clear for the public the benefits of programs that are art based.

My own experience is that the state of consciousness of the one who is expressing is more of a fundamental consideration in the expression than anything else, and at times, more and more, I am aware of the limitations that arise from this not being a consideration in academic forums.    My sense is that the final product of expression is always an abstraction regardless of how much effort is involved in refining and somehow ensuring that it is provable, replicable, authentic and represents the cognition that has formulated it. We make the distinction between more scientific, rationalistic observation and expression and more artistic ways of seeing.

My experience is more that in many ways artistic expression is by its nature more able to reflect and express a truth of life than these other forms of expression. It can go beyond limited and rigidly defined ways of perceiving. Some might say that the artistic expressions are less a result of intellectual effort and development than the others, but maybe it is more that it is a different kind of process but there is still cognitive processes involved in this. Artistic perception involves a more hole, expansive and essential way of seeing going beyond conditioning and the more refined and valued ways that we have come to see to be the fundamentals of human functioning.

My sense in the end is that expression is not the truth of the experience. An expression is ultimately static and that does not reflect the direct experience as the world and universe is dynamic and evolving and into what we have no way of knowing. I myself find it to be helpful to express in an artistic way and in writing especially when it involves inner experiences that I can not always so easily capture in a  knowable way. Life is this unknowable mystery for me contrary to what the more conventional ways may express. So that  any way of expression that attempts to reflect that must in some way address this. Most often in my art as well as my writing there is an ongoing process of refinement. If piece is finished it is dead.  to me. This makes sense in that my experience is constantly changing and in some ways expanding. My perception is never static although the mediums I use for expression seem to be. I can say that I am constantly on the watch for new mediums and ways to express myself.

In the end I am not sure why I look to express myself , why i am interested in others expression and I am not sure that if it is helpful for me except in fulfilling the constant urge that I have to do so and to express to the world that here is something of me that is of the heart and desires to exist in an authentic way. There is discovery involved in that; a looking to discover what it is that I truly am, beyond all that I have been told and all that I have conditioned to believe.

I am more open than ever to hear and share with others what it is that compels them to express themselves and to formulate a conceptual or form oriented understanding. I have to say that I am more drawn to truly creative efforts to grasp and express their experiences in life  that go beyond a more conventional and structured way; something that can go beyond this. To me there is something more authentic and hole in this way. That applies to literature and art. Sometimes when we remain within the human created boundaries of what is normative and appropriate we limit our expression by these norms and this structure and it as well makes it more unlikely that we will be in a place to perceive or include that which is beyond the boundaries.

5 thoughts on “Expression

  1. ‘Is there a benefit in the forms of expression that we use to capture our understanding and experience?’

    You tackle this question from the perspective of the creative artist themselves, and not being one such, I could not offer anything further that wasn’t hypothetical. Still, presumably there is some internal resonance or feeling that marks the completion of the work – the point at which no further refinement is thought necessary even though we may not have ‘captured’ anything outside the work itself? Is it not this subjective feeling itself that may be deemed a ‘benefit’ rather than any verisimilitude as to ‘our understanding and experience’?

    In other words, does that feeling (at completion) of itself create new and further understanding and experience? In a sense, are we not on a hiding to nothing trying to express in symbols (mark, line, form, texture, colour, words), what can only find expression in direct and current experience and yet never represent or express past experience? You state that ‘. . . the final product of expression is always an abstraction. . . which suggests you agree that any artistic ‘expression’ must necessarily be unique to itself, and not to any past experience or understanding.

    Many thanks for this illuminating article Gord.



    1. I have always struggled with this. I dont know what the truth is. I have my own sense of what we are and why we are and I have read some compelling writing that I am inspired by that naturally uses concepts and proposes possibilities. Right now i am reading Jean Gebser, Thoma Merton, Waldo Emerson, Ken Wilber and Peter Mathieson I enjoy writers that explore creative possibilities. I love Nietzsche and Stefan Zweig and I enjoy other philosophers and good literature.there are a number of female writers as well that have been quite influential.
      In terms of my own experience I cant say that i am turning towards this more and more but I dont know in terms of a cognitive knowing. that is intuitive that is beyond knowing leads me, possibly towards knowing, possibly it will remain intuitive. I like Ken Wilbers Integral ideas and his conceptual models for understanding the world.


      1. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read any of Thomas Merton’s works. I have his book ‘The Way of Chuang Tzu’ on my list of titles to buy, though if you had any recommendations of his other works Gord, I would be very interested to know.


  2. Yes “The Inner Experience” is his last book and my favourite Hariod. One at times would think that he holds a secular attitude but he always does come back to Christ. I am not convinced that he thinks that he is devine and if so it is that we are all devine. It seems to me that he is talking about the same experience of wholeness and connection with our nature that many others talk about and that I can relate to. He does comment that Buddhism misses this point a little bit. His life was very much contemplative and I think that he explored honestly and had a gift for noticing and for writing. He always seem to write in a way that did not upset the church and he questions and constructively criticizes many traditions of the church including monastic life. I think that he realized that if we do not look with authentic awareness we ca become lost.
    he was a prolific writer and there are so many. I think that he struggled with the direction of human kind. Thee nis also a book Jeffrey M Shaw titled “The Illusions of Freedom” that is a book about the writings of Jacques Ellul and Thomas Merton and it explores Technology and the Human Condition. For me this is a point of interest.


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