I have never wanted to be like another. So, when I began thinking about just what was the concept of universalness, I was surprised to come to the conclusion that sameness and universalness are the same thing.
I used to think about universalness in this way, through my faith. We all needed to believe as I believed, in the God I believed in. If others didn’t believe that, then they were doomed. Needless to say, this thought has disappeared from my mind set. I don’t know what my God thinks. I just know what others have told me He thinks. And yes, my God is a He. I believe that God is a creator. As an artist, I know that it is impossible to create the same thing twice. Just impossible: unless you are copying it and I don’t believe God makes copies. His creations are all unique, one of a kind, and original.
So, where does this put my thinking? I believe, and I question. Philosophy, (mine and others’) is an ideology that one follows. Again, my mind set has changed on this. If ideologies become like a menu that needs to be followed precisely, step by step, then again, we just have sameness. As I have frequently mentioned, I never make chocolate chip cookies the same way twice. How in the world could I ever follow an ideology that doesn’t allow for uniqueness and one of a kindness? Look at chocolate chip cookies, even if you followed the recipe verbatim, when you put the teaspoon drop of cookie dough on the cookie sheet not two cookies are the same. Some have more nuts than others, some more chips, you get the idea.
Religion is a philosophy; capitalism is a social philosophy. Socialism is a social philosophy. And like these, there are different philosophies associated with aesthetics and art. The mistake that is made, I personally believe, is to think that your philosophy, your religion, or your social belief is the one truth above all others. Again, philosophy is a belief system, not a truth.
Einstein is an excellent example to bring this point home. All of his life he searched for a truth that could explain all things, a universalism. Einstein tried in vain to unify all the forces of the universe in a single theory or a theory of everything, which he was still working on at the time of his death. Einstein went about searching for a truth that would be the final path to a universal “Truth” that would explain all things. The problem is that it appears one truth cannot explain all things. And the problem applies also to art and politics. One size fits all.
One size fits all, a sameness, a universalness. The problem with these is that one size simply does not fit all. Just like the chocolate chip cookies that will all come out different, universal philosophies and truths that govern us and art just don’t work. They do not allow for the unique phenomenological experience of the artist and the viewer.
The question then becomes, how does one begin to understand otherness and difference? I think that after a certain high level of technical skill has been achieved in either art or science, there is no otherness in either of them, but rather a certain aesthetic plasticity of thought and form. Perhaps our philosophies that claim they are “the way and the only way” haven’t reached this level of aesthetic plasticity.
Does this plasticity mean sameness? On the contrary, it is difference and fluidity. Will there ever be a truth found in difference? I think that is the wrong question to ask. Is the difference we are experiencing not difference at all because it is those that are controlled and governed who use these independent differences for their own personal gain? There are many examples today to discuss. For me I focus on the self and the soul in the arts. And I ask the question, how are they governed? They cannot be different if they are governed. But, they also can’t have an aesthetic plasticity until they have gained the technical skills to recognize it and dismiss it.