Saturday, October 25, 2008


While watching an episode of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, "Night Call" (Episode 139 -- February 7, 1964) there is a scene where the old woman has been assisted into a wheelchair. The camera angle is from the viewpoint of an adult looking down to the woman. Across her lap is a knit afghan with a zigzag pattern similar to the kind my grandmother used to make, and it seems like for just a moment the camera lingers on the pattern.

One of the thoughts I had at that moment: what would an afghan look like if instead of being knit into a pattern, the colors and knitting were totally random? Isn't it the pattern or design that gives the afghan its interest?

I recently wrote about color as a facet of making or appreciating art. Design and pattern could be added to the list of things which can make a drawing or painting interesting.

Nature is full of patterns, from atomic structure to the design of galaxies... from the incredible Fibonacci sequence to the rhythm of waves... from the phenomenon of day and night to the miracle of a heartbeat...

Many patterns are useful and many "just are." Daily routines, tastes, patterns in our relationships, patterns of thought, of behavior, of interaction with our personal space... patterns in how we go about getting self-understanding, patterns of taste, of desire, of haste, of waste.... Patterns feel right and normal to us.

For the Dionysian, chaos is the preferred realm. Order and structure feel confining. Daily routines get boring. A steady job is like working on a chain gang. Admittedly, there is something appealing about the unknown, about loss of control... temporarily.

But how many are there who can truly live an utterly patternless existence? You don't know when you will rise, or lay down, go out of return home again... if at all...

In the realm of art I have at times enjoyed making totally abstract art. Yet even then, when painting random colors in a random way, I would have to say that total arbitrariness is unnatural. Our mind keeps wishing to interpret, to organize the impressions made by the colors, lines, strokes, shapes... While adding more lines, I can choose to define the shapes or leave them totally loose. But we are attracted to a measure of order, shape, balance and pattern.

We notice it in music, too. A beat, rather than arbitrariness. In jazz, the straight beat may be replaced by syncopation, but even syncopation structures itself. Chord progressions, harmonies, all conspire to organize sound into pleasing patterns.

In certain realms patterns are especially comforting. Breathing, for example... regular breathing, in and out, easy, nourishing us with vital oxygen, this is good. Difficulty breathing, due to failing lungs, lack of air, being held underwater... these can be pretty frightening.

I guess that's one of my patterns, to take a string of thought into an unexpected direction. Come back tomorrow and we'll see where it goes next.

No comments: