Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Less is more

One of the great challenges for us today is dealing superfluity and information overload. The industrialization of information production has meant that we face a constant bombardment of information that cries out for our attention. The result is that as a society we have lost the ability to see the wood for the trees. Information is power, or so the saying goes. But wisdom is information on steroids. And yet wisdom - the ability to analyze, understand and organize information - has been pushed into the background by our fascination with information.

Here is another way in which the arts can help us. The sculptures of Constantin Brancusi or Alberto Giacometti, haiku poetry or the carefully crafted words of a great novelist show us what can be achieved by focussing on the essence and cutting away the superfluous. The creative process is often about going from the raw block of marble to the core truth. Artists can spend inordinate lengths of time refining their works, usually be removing, refining and cutting back in the knowledge that it is easy to be verbose but a great achievement to be able to reduce an idea or expression to its very quintessence. If our public and political life displayed a similar desire for cutting through the superfluous, the irrelevant we be a lot closer to being able to deal with some of the other great challenges facing us today.

Image: Alberto Giacometti, Standing Woman I, 1960 (photo: Dick Heiser)

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