In college two of my classes, Art History 101 and Histology 300, exposed me to the skill of identifying something larger from something smaller. At the beginning of the semester in Histology we were given slide views of human tissue slices that were magnified to show just a few cells. In Art history the view would focus on a bit of sculpture or architecture, very close up to show a single sculptural figure or the design of just the frieze, or sometimes just a single decoration. The objective was to identify the larger system (Histology) or form (Art Hist) and be graded on this ability. Twenty plus years later I still recall the sickening feeling after viewing these samples as I thought “This is impossible!” and then the later unspoken conclusion that I would fail miserably. In Histology, these were tissue slides and those black bits called nuclei or the border called a cell wall, just looked like, well, the other slide with the same things in different colors or with different backgrounds. (A doodler since childhood, these resembled some of my more elaborate doodles suspended in colored backgrounds, a very weird Doodle Soup). It was like looking through a pinhole, and trying to see the whole picture. My outward expression must have been one of many looks betraying such thoughts as we were assured by the instructor that soon enough we too would be able to identify the larger picture. Class after tissue class slides were viewed, structures were discussed and just a few classes in, I became acquainted with, and skilled at, identifying the structures. To this day I marvel at the inner workings of human biology, the cellular intricacies that work in concert on a daily basis. In art, these lessons imbued me with a respect for the minutiae that is necessary to make a complete (and complicated) whole.
These lessons also provided a life metaphor for me: Viewing only a single aspect of a situation or standing too close to a picture or object can obscure the larger meaning or view. One swath of color on a painted landscape viewed up close looks like…a swath of paint. It is only when one stands far enough back that the contribution to the entire landscape is revealed: the swath is part of the sky flowing into the painted terrain. In our personal lives, this vantage point can cause an emotional prejudice that prevents one from moving forward or accepting the larger challenge. How many times have I started a project or a new venture, only to withdraw after losing sight of the expanse of success and joy beyond the immediate challenge?
As I write this, my very first blog entry, I am stepping out beyond the initial dark spot of apprehension that is a vital component of starting something new.