Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum 1 - Stories From/Of A Picture

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  Welcome ....
Date:  2001-09-03 16:33:51
Message Id:  28
Glad you're here. A place to have/leave thoughts, and to see what other people are thinking and how that relates to what you're thinking. A place for sharing thoughts in progress, so don't worry about whether they're finished or perfectly composed or ... whatever. What you put here will trigger interesting thoughts in others, and hopefully you'll find here things that trigger new thoughts in you.

To get started ... what do you think of the picture on the course home page? What's its story? What does it make you think? Try making up a story about it, or at least sketching one.

Name:  Jennifer
Subject:  Picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:07:24
Message Id:  29
my question would be whether or not the puzzle pieces are going from the ball to the puzzle or the puzzle to the ball. See i think the pieces might be going from the puzzle to the ball, with the ball representing us, these sort of blurry but diverse source of confusion in which we attempt to understand the pieces of our lives. The pieces we think go together like a nice neat puzzle, but as you can see, this is not really true.
Name:  Amanda Glendinning
Subject:  Understanding Pictures
Date:  2001-09-04 11:10:03
Message Id:  30
The picture of understanding on the course home page is a thought-provoking piece of art. As the block of reason loses its puzzle pieces from each of its solid sides, the sections fall to the sphere of imagination and confusion. That sphere though is not just a messy college but also its own form of understanding. Emily Dickinson once said, "Much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye." Her quote applies to this picture with the madness of the mottled colours of the sphere. The picture provokes the onlookers to ask what is understanding? Is it the solid cube of primary colours? Or is it the blotchy globe? Will we ever truly find out?
Name:  Cathy B.
Subject:  Picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:12:40
Message Id:  31
Well, it makes me think of the learning process. It's based on questions, and has a pillar of understanding supporting a complex puzzle that could, I suppose, represent knowledge. It is a very evocative image.
Name:  emily claire
Date:  2001-09-04 11:12:52
Message Id:  32
The aforementioned picture seems to define a loss of global understanding, which seems somewhat contradictory to the meaning of the course (i never was very good at pictoral interpretations). The large block of puzzle pieces, which are held on a pedestol of understanding, are falling off, and creating themselves into their own sort of globe. Perhaps this is meant ot define a greater sense of understanding, by creating a mixture of all the different pieces. However, at first glance, i felt that the globe itself showed a loss of understanding, by detracting from the puzzle pieces original spaces. The word "understanding" is also followed on the side by "is" and "???", perhaps further defining the confusing nature of the interpretation to be purposeful.
Name:  Liz
Subject:  Picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:14:43
Message Id:  33
The different color box reminds me of a rubix cube... I guess that understanding is kind of like fitting together the correct pieces of a puzzle (getting the right colors from the multicolored sphere). From a different perspective, it's kind of like taking "gelatinous" colors from the shifting sphere and finding just those that fit to make a solid, stable square. Um... what do other people make of the podium type thing holding up the square?
Name:  Sarah Friedman
Subject:  puzzle picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:15:15
Message Id:  34
It seems that the circular shape in the picture might be a brain, and the cube could be a world from where a brain gathers little bits of information and fuses them together to make since of these pieces of matter and ideas around it. Now, I notice that the cube is top heavy, and sort of rooted to the ground by a stand that seems to say understanding is questioning. I interpret this to mean that the questioning part is the difficult, unstable part, while the observations themselves are more solid, at least in their assembled form. But when the brain tries to take the cube apart, it must learn to understand what all the puzzle pieces mean in order to question them and find out more, and incorporate more puzzle pieces. So it must both understand in order to question, and question in order to understand.
Name:  Flori
Subject:  understanding-web page picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:17:54
Message Id:  35
This picture is illustrating the way people make sense of the world-the way their minds work toward understanding. Their memories are built from stories that they've heard, pieces of information that they've learned, that fit together like a puzzle. The different colors stand for the different stories. Each story is colorful and imaginative. Each thought is different from another but fits together to make up one's understanding. The more information, the more complete the puzzle becomes (the more complete one's understanding becomes.) People's understanding is also built upon the grouping of information they retain. That is why the puzzle in this picture has sides of different colors. Not only must one retain information, but also group it together to make sense of it.
Name:  Laura Bang!
Subject:  Understanding
Date:  2001-09-04 11:18:11
Message Id:  36
Understanding is a very important part of defining who we are. Everyone has a different understanding of events that happen in our lives. First, we must ask questions, for it is curiosity that leads us to draw our own conclusions about the world around us. The observations we gather in respone to our questions lead us to understanding. Once we have enough puzzle pieces to "understand" something, the pieces fall apart and become a globe of knowledge. Understanding and knowledge are not the same thing.
Name:  Helena Salles
Subject:  Thoughts on that Picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:18:19
Message Id:  37
Being new to this forum, I guess I'll say hello to everyone and add my thoughts on that picture on the CSem page. It looks like the box is knowledge, or something that's solid and makes sense, while the ball next to it is ourselves (like Jennifer said) of our culture, which takes pieces of the nicely cubed jigsaw puzzle and incorporates it into our own little shere of influence that mixes it with everything else in our environment. It seems to show that ourselves, when taking in knowledge and culture, manage to mesh it all together despite their distinct basic colors and aspects, and personalize it when adding to what we already know.

That little podium, though, with all the '???/???' on the bottom seems to be trying to show that we're not yet sure of what understanding consists of?
Any other ideas?
Name:  Chelsea Phillips
Subject:  Course Home Page Picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:18:44
Message Id:  38
Hi everybody! I'm Chelsea and this is my take on the picture on the Home Page.

Once upon a time- no scratch that- A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there lived a box whose name was Penelope, even though it was a boy box. Penelope, or Penny, was best friends with Winston, a bouncy ball filled with confetti of all the colors in the cosmos. Penny always shared everything with Winston, or Winny, including his most hidden desire- to be a LAMP SHADE!! Knowing how important becoming a lampshade was to Penny, Winny decided to help. The two friends set of into the night, journying across many strange lands and through untoward dangers to finally reach their destination- the JCPenny Home Store. They snuck inside, using guerilla manuevers Winny had learned in the war. They searched high and low until they found the perfect home for Penny. It was a striking base in classic white, but perhaps its most intruiging feature was the philosophical "Understanding is ?????" painted onto its stark white sides. Quickly, Penny bounced up onto the base using Winny as a springboard. He switched on the light, but found he was a bit too opaque to really let the light through, so he left pieces of himself go in order to light the world.

Name:  Kathryn Rorer
Subject:  Burgmayer Picture
Date:  2001-09-04 11:20:12
Message Id:  39
Th Burgmayer picture explains how the world of knowledge is put together. A question is the first step, which leads the way to understanding the answer to that question. However, it also helps lead the way to understanding the world better because by questioning, one is not simply accepting what one has been told, but thinking about it and beginning to develop their own opinion. Before one can develop their own opinion however, they must figure out what the different ideas and positions there are about it. Then one can can pick which pieces of this they agree with, and put together their complete opinion.
Name:  Karen Pang
Subject:  Thoughts on picture on course page
Date:  2001-09-04 11:21:35
Message Id:  40
My interpretation of the picture on the course page is a work of art depicting how most humans view their world. The sphere consists of mixed color pieces, all put togther in no particular order--it is a mess. The square, however, has distinct edges, corners, and sides. The pieces of the square are even organized into separate colors. Since the pieces are taken from the sphere, one can see it as a human trying to gather loose pieces of information and trying to make sense of the parts and finally creating a form of what humans begin to feel as a sense of "understanding". Nevertheless, this square is held up by the words "UNDERSTANDING is ??????" This contradicts what humans believe as "understanding"--when they have reached a point when they feel they have gotten the answers to their questions, they find even more questions.
Name:  Anne Dalke
Date:  2001-09-04 12:52:30
Message Id:  41
for me, the box (colored so brightly, brightly and w/ beauty; i revel in the intensity of these primary colors) clearly represents academic “knowledge,” the sort of “packaging” that shows up as disciplines like“biology” or “literary studies” or “anthropology,” while the globe is the multiple pleasing richnesses of the world. but i really don’t like the way this artist has figured the relationship between these two images. rather than “reading” what she’s drawn, i’d prefer to re-draw the picture/re-arrange the interaction between the parts. i’d get rid of the stand and its label, put the box and the globe on the same level, let the puzzle pieces flow back and forth between them, in order to “say” that the rich multiplicity of the world is what feeds our academic “packages,” but the sense those packages make of the world has the capacity for re-shaping it in turn...and on and on/round and round/back and forth it goes. (in the picture, as it’s currently drawn, gravity works against that back-and-forth process) WOULDN’T i just like it a LOT if, before class ends in december, each of us could not just describe (as i just have), but actually DRAW our own figure of what “understanding” looks like....
Name:  Carol
Subject:  what the cover says
Date:  2001-09-04 17:28:34
Message Id:  50
What the cover says to me is that the process of asking questions can lead to a better understanding of your topic which, in turn, can lead to a way of fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. However, in this illustration it's not clear where these pieces of the puzzle originate. Have they fallen off the completed cube, or have they exploded from the sphere? Will the blue puzzle piece work even though it has spots of red on it?

We could think of this picture as an illustration of how we might put together the pieces of a life. We ask ourselves questions about who we want to be, we try to come to an understanding of what we want to be and what we want to do, then we try to fit the pieces together in a way that makes sense. The ambiguity about whether the puzzle pieces have fallen off the cube or have erupted from the sphere tells me that the questions we ask ourselves don't come from a single source. Serendipity happens, tragedy happens, the world intrudes, and our lives must be modified even after we think we have the puzzle solved.

Name:  Robin Landry
Subject:  Asking the right questions
Date:  2001-09-04 17:33:34
Message Id:  51
If you can get your question formulated exactly right, so that it is in just the right shape, very neat and with no rough edges, it can lead you to a place where the universe itself will provide the answer.
Name:  Louise
Subject:  Picture...
Date:  2001-09-04 19:54:47
Message Id:  52
My interpretation of this picture is…. that understanding is the connection between questioning, and knowledge. The ball with the mixture of colors – represents to me, the universe with its understanding of what we need –is offering us the answers to our questions, BUT only when we are truly receptive and open to what it offers will the puzzle piece actually fit.

The floating puzzle pieces in the picture, look like they are on there way up to fill in more pieces to our lives. The empty pieces represent the openness we need in order for all to go well and work well together. The universe looks like it has endless answers to our questions…

Name:  Sharon Burgmayer
Subject:  Understanding is....
Date:  2001-09-04 20:43:39
Message Id:  54
What wonderfully thoughtful and creative ideas about my picture are written here!! "Are any of them right?" you are bound to ask. Does it matter? I don't think so. What matters are the new ideas the picture creates within you, that glorious birth of a new connection.

Besides, once you see the original——rather than this "modified" version on your cover——you'll likely want yet another stab at "the story"......

Name:  Lisa Harrison
Subject:  Cover Image
Date:  2001-09-05 07:55:16
Message Id:  55
As an artist, when I first viewed the cover of the C-Sem packet, my eye was
immediately drawn to the narrow rectangle ("Understanding").  The shape just
didn't convince my eye that it was able to adequately support the cube --
it's as if a third dimension is missing.  

Otherwise, I enjoyed struggling with the question over whether the little
puzzle pieces are exploding from the sphere, or are they splashing into it?  
Perhaps some are falling, while others are returning to the  cube.      

One more thing.  I couldn't help but see the yellow background as a sun in a
blue sky -- yet with ominous clouds lurking nearby.

Name:  Cathy B.
Subject:  READING
Date:  2001-09-05 20:55:36
Message Id:  58
Okay, I finally finished all the reading for Thursday. As far as I can tell, the first section is about questioning the meaning of life, the second is about coping with change, and the third is about the relationship between the past and the present. I know these are the pretty obvious conclusions, but the texts are so long that it's hard to take up all the details.
Anyway- I liked the second one best, and the poem was pretty good, too. I got the feeling that the thrid had the most literary value, though.
Name:  Gail DeCoux
Subject:  Picture
Date:  2001-09-05 22:53:05
Message Id:  59
Here's my two cents worth: Understanding (i.e. knowledge) is based on finding the answers to numerous questions. The more answers we get the greater our level of understanding, which is represented by the elevated cube. The cube is a great place to be because everything fits together nicely. All colors are bright and clear, all lines are sharply delineated, there is order. Having arrived there, you shout "Eureka!"

But not for long. Newfound answers can undo what was previously held as true and then things begin to fall apart. Old beliefs fall away. Some ever so slowly, because it's hard to let go of what was once held as true, while others go crashing down into the amorphous sea of restless ambiguity, where the constant churning (questioning) may bring their secrets to the surface again.

Name:  Gail DeCoux
Subject:  Picture
Date:  2001-09-05 23:01:46
Message Id:  60
(Now here's what I really think when I look at the picture: The cube represents how my brain feels when I'm doing Math. The orb is how it feels when it's struggling to do creative writing. Aarrggghhh!)
Name:  mdevereu
Date:  2001-09-06 08:20:17
Message Id:  64
the chaos of a bright confettied globe sends puzzling bits to complete and
make wholethe box with gaping bits. the box then sends a sheet of unraveled
understanding and truth to a plinth of more queries. the more we learn the
more we question
Name:  Stephanie J
Subject:  humanity
Date:  2001-09-06 21:17:16
Message Id:  68
The ball is a "melting pot" planet made up of several shapes and colors. The box is humanity. Are the falling pieces completing the planet or does the planet complete humanity?
Name:  Emma
Subject:  Cover Art Comment for Tuesday
Date:  2001-09-09 20:29:47
Message Id:  83
The primary colors and the straight-line geometry of the box represent the most basic sort of knowledge. But there is energy in our quest for understanding which eventually leads to thinking that is more dynamic and more complex until, finally, truly original ideas require a leap!
Name:  Eveline A. Stang
Subject:  Cover Picture - Comment
Date:  2001-09-09 23:45:12
Message Id:  84
The cube painted in bold primary colors seems to suggest linear thinking, i.e. logic and reason. The word "understanding" is shown with question marks because understanding cannot be complete (missing puzzle pieces) when based on logical thinking alone. The ball as a circular object suggests something whole or complete (intuitive knowledge?); it is painted with splashes of colors, at times overlapping, suggesting a blending of characteristics. Interpretation: perhaps the missing puzzle pieces of logic must become painted with the various shades of intuitive knowledge emanating from the multi-coloured ball in order for complete undestanding to take place. If we continue the process, perhaps the cube will eventually become the ball! An imaginative piece of art. I enjoyed thinking about it.
Name:  Zoe Anspacher
Subject:  Response to Request for the Meaning of the Syllabus Cover
Date:  2001-09-10 09:58:26
Message Id:  87

On the Meaning of the Syllabus Cover Art, Hereinafter Named Reppreason Titus

Socrates: Reppreason Titus, I have been charged by the Authorities with the Inquiry of your Meaning. I ask that you forgive my interrogation, and the limitations inherent in translating your intentions into those inadequate scratches we call words.

Reppreason Titus: Socrates, you may inquire of my meaning free from concern for my insult, or offense as I will simply tell you what you already know: that I, like all in existence, am spinning with our planet or in our universe, or swimming in the consciousness of various beings, and this constant motion, combined with what we call time, makes my meaning as alive as you, a human, and similarly as vulnerable to infinite possible interpretations at any given moment.

Socrates: Yes, we do agree on the inevitable variability permeating our existence, but perhaps we can record for the Authorities one interpretation by making observations, factual observations, of your physical being, and then deducing what this physical evidence represents. May I propose the observations most readily visible?

Reppreason Titus: Being what I am, a piece of paper with a reproduction of an Artist‚s work, I am vulnerable to dissection. I may prefer you to live with me, see me, take my image into yourself thereby extending my life and producing many generations, and connecting me to my kind; but you, being what you are, must obey the Authorities.

Socrates: Reppreason Titus! We may both be satisfied, for I did as you prefer already. And the Authorities are to thank, for I would not have chosen you otherwise. Let us both be sorry for the experience put upon us, yet glad that we may share some satisfaction in the symbiosis you desire.
Now, please allow me to list what I consider factual observations.

Reppreason Titus: I cannot deny you this.

1.) You are two dimensional, although in reality you do have a thickness, the Artists would categorize you as two dimensional.

2.) You present colors, lines, shapes, and shadows, and varying degrees of hue, and contrast. These we can view individually, and as small groups, and as a whole group; all of which we can view additionally, in a large number of permutations, in relation to each other.

3.) Some of your shapes and lines form imitations of three dimensional objects while others do not. In particular, there is the imitation of a three dimensional cube, and the imitation of a three dimensional rectangular shape. Then, there are three main delineated elements that appear two dimensional: 1) a relatively long and thin rectangle, 2) a circle, and 3) the area surrounding all of the previously mentioned shapes˜what I will call the environment.

4.) Some of your lines imitate letters and punctuation marks used in the English language, and are grouped so as to form the words "understanding" and "is" while the punctuation marks, representative of a question, are organized into two sets of three, forming a group of six question marks.
I could continue this list further to include descriptions of your dominant colors, their placement, and relationship; the smaller shapes, subshapes, groupings, and relative sizes; the varying thickness and orientation of the lines, and much more; but I wish to verify thus far my observations. So now I will ask, my vision, do you agree?

Reppreason Titus: Oh, my dear Socrates! Trouble yourself no further with verification! You have truthfully documented several of my main characteristics. There should be no question that you have examined me thoroughly. The Authorities should be convinced that the interrogation included investigation of not only the obvious, but also the minute and the subtle. Please come to your deductions. Tell me what you make of your observations.

Socrates: My vision, being examined in this way must be uncomfortable. I will cease for now, and offer you reprieve by sharing my responses to our first few meetings.

At first I noticed a darkness indicated within and surrounding the three dimensional cube and what appears to be its supporting base. Then I noticed that, none of the indicated objects are touching or overlapping, and furthermore the objects do not appear to be weighted as by gravity on the suggested ground of the environment. In fact, the objects also do not appear to extend three-dimensionally into the environment (this is not surprising as three dimensions are not suggested in the environment). Instead they appear to be an artificial part of it, like a reflection on the surface of water. At the same time, my emotional aspect sensed the mixture of black and blue surrounded by yellow as a bruise, which led me to think of pain. Altogether I sensed disconnectedness, fluidity, insecurity, and physical injury.

Later, I noticed the word "understanding" which I sensed was representing its literal definition, and by its placement as the stand of the base, I thought it was happening in a particular direction: from the base at its bottom to the cube at its top. Then, realizing that the question marks are on the base underneath the stand (labeled, perhaps as a pun on its suggested position and function, "understanding"), I thought the composition suggested that questions lead to understanding. But, when I looked again, I saw that the word "understanding" was placed so that to read it, which most humans would reflexively do, the eye would have to travel from the top of the stand to the bottom.

That is not the only contradiction in direction I see. There is the indication of puzzle-shaped pieces of the cube falling "down" to the disc (which seems intended to represent a sphere, the success of which is debatable), and yet there is the suggestion that puzzle-shaped figures are rising up out of the disc.

At this point Socrates and Reppreason Titus are interrupted by Old Master Tymis Waystusis who informs them that they must cease their debate until further notice from the Authorities.

Name:  Marie-Laure
Subject:  Poster comment
Date:  2001-09-11 09:57:05
Message Id:  94
This image make think that understanding is the question of an abstract concept that correlate the shapes and colors of the learning process to the extant that it could bring to a change of behavior and ultimatly until one's could adapt and fit oneself to the new environment, which eventually also reacts under the transformation of the new understanding.
Name:  Liz Nutting
Subject:  one last comment
Date:  2001-09-12 11:41:31
Message Id:  100
I'm chiming in a bit late, but I wanted to briefly give my perspective on the cover picture. I find my view of this picture is shaped by a desire, a desire to see the puzzle pieces as neither falling from order to chaos or rising from chaos to order (if, in fact, it is fair to define the square and the ball as order and chaos, respectively). I choose to see the pieces both falling and rising, encountering each other in the middle, and in the encounter, transforming (perhaps through a sharing of stories) into something new and vibrant.

That, and I like the colors!

Name:  Sharon Burgmayer
Subject:  Understanding the cover
Date:  2001-09-16 22:15:14
Message Id:  174
This link:
will take you to a movie that tells the story of how I came to create the
original "understanding" painting that was slightly changed for the cover of your book.

This movie gives one story, the first story, of the painting's "birth". In the original story, I "saw" the pieces moving in one direction only (as you'll see).

You, and others with whom I have shared the painting, have told subsequent
stories that have multiplied the dimensions of "understanding" that can be
extracted from it. From these stories I, too, now appreciate the ambiguity of pieces moving in both directions.
How you see it depends where you are. (Not unlike life.)
(The quote "Understanding is...." is from Werner Erhard.)

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