Bees, Bats, Worms and Artists

The work of art provides us with new organs with which to see the world.

— Maurice Merleau-Ponty

We understand the world thanks to the nonfungible mental tokens we call “ideas.”

Ideas bridge internal and external reality and allow us to say, “Yes, I get it, I understand.”

But—unless we’re Buddhists, philosophers or neuroscientists—we don’t distinguish the outer from the inner world, nor from the ideas that swirl in our brains.

There’s only the world.

Our on-ramps to the world are the five sense; more accurately, the five sense organs of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

The sense organs are handy (organ in fact derives from the Greek organon, meaning “tool”).  Imagine getting along without them!

But, if you think about it, our organs curtail understanding.

None lets us, for example, detect a flower by its voltage (a bumblebee can do this); or a blood-vein by its temperature (a bat can do this); or a compass-direction by the Earth’s magnetic field (a worm can do this).

Thankfully, we can grow new sense organs—on the inside at least.

We can do this through art.

Art allows us, as highly conditioned agents immersed in the world, to experience it anew.

Art lets us see like artists see.

Art invents new organs—and reinvents what we understand.

Above: Pear and Apple. Oil on canvas board. 10 x 8 inches. Ships framed and ready to hang.