A General Model of Expression
Let’s take a closer examination at this final rung on the heirarchy of needs – the need for self expression. Let’s examine the assumptions behind what it means to express one’s self.
You, the Speaker
First, there is the Cartesian self. “I think, therefore I am.” You know you exist. You know there’s a you somewhere inside your head, not in the back, but somewhere between the temples. It’s an ephemeral existence, but you’re sure it’s there – even more sure than you are that your body exists. Indeed, we have knowledge in this self, and faith in the rest of the world.
Someone Else, the Listener
Second, we make the assumption that there are other people out there. We do this on faith, because there’s no way to have Cartesian caliber confidence in the existence of another the way you have knowledge of the existence of your own self. But this isn’t the end of the world, because humans are outstanding when it comes to making leaps of faith of varying degrees of calculation. So secondly, there are other selves, existing outside the causal realm of your own self.
The Encoded Information Between
Expression begins with a preverbal, predescribed, raw experience. You look into a lake on a partially cloudy afternoon. The waves contain intricate, indescribably complexity. It could never properly be photographed the way your eye sees it. It could never be drawn. If you really let yourself look as closely as possible, even a simple wave on a lake contains uncommunicatable complexity. This type of example can be applied anywhere. Human are fed by their senses a constant flow of indescribable complexity. We’ve become experts at picking through this complexity and finding exactly what we need to survive, but as the sun of modernity rises, the need to tend to one’s physical survival becomes more or less irrelevant as survival is assured. We are again free to notice about reality whatever we care to notice. Expressing what it is that we decide to notice is what I’m calling self-expression.
To express this complexity, we are required to codify this complexity. We might see a wave and give it a word. We might try to describe it with more detailed words (“It was a wave with dark edges, a bit frothy on the top due to a gust of wind…”) but the words themselves are in no way the same as the original object of description. These words, or any type of expression, serve as encoded information.
This information can be decoded by another person, as long as that other person has an understanding of the code – they know the language. But it always requires a person to decode that encoded information. Expression is a two-person process. This process rests on the leap of faith. It’s the leap of faith that other people really are seeing what you’ve written, looking at what you’ve painted, sculpted, listening to what you’ve composed, and not just listening, but truly understanding – decoding that information back into their own preverbal, predescriptive understanding of reality.
This model is engineered to be so general that it encompasses all types of expression. Expression is synonymous here with communication, or art. Thus, this is how I define art.
To aid your understanding of the preverbal, ephemeral idea that I attempt to communicate here, I submit to you a second type of encoded information – visual, graphical depictions of what I mean. I’m still more or less tech illiterate, and linking to it is the best I can do for now.