top of page

Philosophy of 'Attention'

"[Nietzsche's] cosmic principle of creative evolution, in contrast to Darwinian evolution, proposes that evolution is not guided by accidental mutations and adaptations, but by a teleological force which regulates the development of life from a lower spiritual state to a higher. This force is directly felt by human beings as aspiration, and by embracing this aspiration, according to Zarathustra, the individual can overcome himself and evolve."

Some rather intense years of philosophical, spiritual, and psycholinguistic study stir behind my recent work, titled:


to what you hold on

to what you let go

Below is my best effort to summarize those studies to enrich the reader's relationship with the artwork.


You must first understand Evolution as systematic reaching and releasing. In ever-changing circumstances, Life holds on to what works, and lets go of what no longer serves its purposes.

As a human being, you wield the power of will over your personal evolution. You can, and will evolve according to where you direct your will, your faculty of attention. Accepting this premise as true, you must then understand that words are the most powerful tools your will can use to realize your goals. By controlling your thoughts and speech, with wise use of your attention, you may release from your life all that does not serve you. You may reach for, grasp, and hold on to all that will.


The visual art piece 'Attention' is composed from two texts. The first is a college textbook titled "What is Life?" which covers such subjects as biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. Also the source of the images (cells, DNA, etc.) I also used its chapter subheadings to collage the following sentences, extending radially from the center:

Life histories are shaped by continuously varying traits.

Some traits are controlled by thought in order to evolve.

In translation, experiments enable us to capture evolution in progress.

Controlling variables makes experiments more powerful.

Human communication and language abilities evolve to indulge and advance natural patterns of expression occurring right before our eyes.

As energy is captured and converted, life can be imagined.

If you can understand the meaning of this one sentence, then you can understand the whole piece.

Essentially I am making a psycholinguistic argument. Language shapes reality. Specifically, the language that you use shapes your reality. Speech and thought shape reality.

The hands (the same as the hand that comes "out of the mist" in the poem Memory), are cut from images of DNA sequences, cells, muscle fibers, etc. These are the "natural patterns of expression" occuring right before our eyes. These tiny bits by themselves don't seem to have consciousness, but from these our conscious self emerges. And how do I know that a conscious self emerges? Because I can say so, with words. Or, in the immortal words of the 17th century French philosopher René Decartes:

"I think therefore I know I am."

We can take this idea even further by adding that what you think about is what you are. Choosing what you think about, and how you think about it, is the process of becoming; of evolving the self.

So, choose wisely.


I suggest reading this page from Osho's Tantra: The Supreme Understanding where I first encountered the imagery that belies my "Attention."

In my interpretation, these lines are not just criss-crossing willy-nilly. No, you have the power, the free will to reach out and pull in and consequently to assimilate (become) whichever of these "energy currents" (discrete concepts) you choose.

At this point it I am pulled by the strongest of temptations to digress into a veritable treatise on abstract language, but I will urge myself back towards brevity. The important thing to understand is that abstract ideas--like "beauty," "ugliness," "love," "hostility," etc.--have no basis on objective reality. (These compared to concrete words that do have basis in objective reality, such as "foot," "car," "running," "person".) Abstract ideas exist in the mind. They alter your perception of objective reality, and these alterations create your subjective reality.

These ideas are how we "capture and convert" the dead experience of objective reality (meaningless molecules, atoms, etc.) into what we call life. Into the "natural patterns of expression occuring right before our eyes," we imbue meaning; this is the injection of life itself into dead material.

To quote Shakespeare:

"There is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so."


Now a note on the following synchronicity, which fits well what Valdimir Nabokov called "one of those dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets love."

The second text I used to source of the words scattered in the nothingness is the book of poetry titled "The Gift" by Gordon and Gladis DePree ©1977. I chose it for the aesthetic of the italics as well as the size of the words and the serifed font to contrast the sans-serif of the dominant text.

As I was going through and snipping away the words I liked, I discovered the following poem:


Lastly, please note that the substantive elements of this artwork--the sun, hands, words and the mirror--are sandwiched between two panes of glass held directly by the frame; there is no matting. This is to drive home the point that there is nothing beyond; nothing beyond this concept (of your self) represented by this artwork. Again:

"There is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so."

Think wisely.

bottom of page