The Space Between

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(Feel free to queue up some Dave Matthews if you want extra effect)

In my painting class on Wednesday, a student was talking about his interest in transitions between states, concepts, objects, and ideas. It wasn't about the discrete things themselves, but the places between them.

I blurted out "synapses" and my professor said the same thing seconds later - what he is trying to depict is the space where change and transformation occur, just like a synapse between nerve cells. My professor asked me to explain to the class how nerves function and where thought is "located."

Though I used elaborate diagramming with my fingers, you can get a pretty simple explanation here, the Reader's Digest artist's version being that chemicals are released where the dendrites of one neuron approach another, into the space between them called the synapse. When concentrations of these chemicals (neurotransmitters) build up to a given point (the action potential), the nerve cell fires. Sequences of these build up to form responses and ultimately sophisticated, coordinated functions like emotion and thought.

What's key is not just that this reaction occurs between cells, but that the atmosphere around them changes completely -- in painting terms, it's not enough to paint one object butting up against another without regarding the transformation that occurs when they come in potent contact. If expressing that space between is the goal, it is important to represent the conditions which evoke that change, the pervasive atmosphere building to a potential.

Later that day, in my evening class, a student originally from St Petersburg commented on how Americans work excessively during the weeks and months between their weekends and vacations, then try to pack in adventure or extreme relaxation because they have allotted that time for enjoyment. The more sensible approach toward life would be to seek joy in every day and find pleasure whenever possible in all experiences.

I felt crestfallen as I realized that I am living on hold again. I'm prioritizing future goals and career aspirations over everyday joys. I'm well aware that seeking a post-graduate education requires certain sacrifice and delay of gratification, but it's been my own choice to forfeit happiness or even simple contentment on an everyday basis.

Because really, it's the space between the big things where everything happens.

I think I've been making progress in keeping my life in better balance, but I've got a really long way to go.

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This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on November 12, 2006 8:19 AM.

A heavy sigh was the previous entry in this blog.

Learning from myself is the next entry in this blog.

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