A Gallery of Slivers

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January 10, 2020- 

It is more common than some like to admit, to regard oneself as “well-rounded”, worldly, “Renaissance person”, or some other descriptor that accents a wide variety of experiences.
I’ve had many of those types of moments. Yet, in thinking about any given experience, how deep was any of it?  How broad?  Let me consider one example.

About five years ago, I visited Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  The size of that fine institution necessitated choosing one or two galleries.  I selected a Frida Kahlo exhibit, learning a fair amount about that astonishing artist and taking in a few of the adjoining works by Mexican and Central American painters, as well.  The other exhibit I chose featured Japanese and Korean silk calligraphy.  This was a refresher on what I had learned of the medium, whilst visiting Seoul, twenty years earlier.

Neither of these visits was in any way encyclopedic or exhaustive.  Indeed, in a two-hour stay, one is getting only a sliver of knowledge, about any given subject. That’s not a bad thing, in the least.  I would rather have a preliminary experience with a particular subject, or place, than none at all.

The fact, though, that there is vastly more to any particular person, place or thing, than we can fully appreciate, leaves me in awe.  That’s not even getting close to the topic of The Universe, which will always escape our attempts to contain it, in the realm of human consciousness.  Just considering one painting, by any given artist, can take several hours of focused contemplation.  The writer William Least Heat Moon, in “Prairy Erth” (Houghton Mifflin,Boston, 1991), took the sparsely-populated Chase County, Kansas, and delved into every aspect of the modest section of Flint Hills, until it “looms as large as the Universe”.

This is one of the true wonders of this life: No matter how many times one experiences even the most ordinary of things, it is, as another astute observer recently remarked, proof that you can’t have the same experience twice.  Life is a gallery of slivers.