Sometimes the futility from examining our contradictions and repetitions can be fuel for forward motion.
The inspiration for Repetition Progressing was born of realizing that futility can be a necessary part of progression. Specifically the futility experienced while trying again and again, or in my case drawing lines over and over.
The repetition in the CognEYEzant Project has led me to see that doing something over and over can bring newness. Each eye is infinitely different from the rest and the repetition turns into a kind of discovery. But discovery takes effort, it takes looking, seeking. That’s why I chose the theme to be “Repetition Progressing”.
Recognizing futility can call us to action, an action created from our own determination. However the push to make change doesn’t always begin with action, sometimes it begins with awareness: naming what must be changed. And where recognition comes, I believe, motion follows. Learning to integrate futility and motion is a challenge, but one that seems natural, because the very act of living asks us to be in constant motion.
Equating repetition with forward motion might, at first, seem contradictory,
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different answer.”
This quote has been a part of my life for a long time, often quoted in response to futile family moments. The quote seemed like something I should agree with, after all it was attributed to Einstein, but I could never, really, accept it. Because when you really think about it, nothing can truly be the same.
Sure you may wash the same dishes each day, but the circumstances: people in the room, temperature of the water, how you feel, the crusty food on the plates, the music or the silence, are always different.
I’ve recently learned, much to my young self’s satisfaction, that the “Einstein quote” may not have been his. I was enlightened by Frank Wilczek, theoretical physicist and mathematician, on how the quote is directly contradicted by the world of particle physics. He explains  that,
If you think about what happens at a modern particle physics accelerator like the LHC  or, even better, its predecessor, the LEP , or Electron-Positron Collider, what happens at an accelerator like that is that people do the same thing over and over again. They collide electrons  and positrons  with exactly the same properties, exactly the same energy, many, many times, and you get different results each time.
Repetition Progressing’s line drawings were inspired by the repetition and futility that many of us personally experience in the growth process, in being human. The many, sometimes crossing, lines in each piece represent the contradictions that often arise through repetition. Philosopher Georg Hegel, in his book The Science of Logic, describes contradiction’s important role,
“It is only because a thing contains a contradiction within itself that it moves and acquires impulse and activity. That is the process of all motion and development.”
Naming and observing contradictions, in the world and within ourselves, is at the core of Repetition Progressing. I wanted to try to articulate how repetition and contradiction are the backbone of our human experience. If we learn to live with, not despite, our contradictions; if we learn to cherish futility, and if we learn to relish necessary forms of repetition, life will progress, and perhaps, make beauty along the way. We just need to look, one eye at a time.
Click here to view the pieces from Repetition Progressing.
- Author of A Beautiful Question
- On Being episode “Why is the World so Beautiful?”
- Wikipedia, Particle Accelerator
- Large Hadron Collider, CERN website
- Wikipedia, Large Electron–Positron Collider
- English Oxford Living Dictionary, electron
- English Oxford Living Dictionary, positron
- Worldcat, The Science of Logic