When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following with his pen the lines that have been pencilled by the teacher. Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us. This is why we are consciously relieved when we turn to reading after being occupied with our own thoughts. But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of some one else’s thoughts. And so it happens that the person who reads a great deal — that is to say, almost the whole day, and recreates himself by spending the intervals in thoughtless diversion, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who is always riding at last forgets how to walk.

Such, however, is the case with many men of learning: they have read themselves stupid. For to read in every spare moment, and to read constantly, is more paralyzing to the mind than constant manual work, which, at any rate, allows one to follow one’s own thoughts.

Just as a spring, through the continual pressure of a foreign body, at last loses its elasticity, so does the mind if it has another person’s thoughts continually forced upon it. And just as one spoils the stomach by overfeeding and thereby impairs the whole body, so can one overload and choke the mind by giving it too much nourishment. For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read if one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost. Indeed, it is the same with mental as with bodily food: scarcely the fifth part of what a man takes is assimilated; the remainder passes off in evaporation, respiration, and the like.

From all this it may be concluded that thoughts put down on paper are nothing more than footprints in the sand: one sees the road the man has taken, but in order to know what he saw on the way, one requires his eyes.

Reflection & Reading - Schopenhauer

Some notes on 'thinking in pictures' and the importance of gathering squishy facts

Clarity and cogency of thought are fundamental to my practice. If my thinking—and by extension, my writing—may be analogized as a river, then I hope for it to be a gentle river, whose waters are transparent, and whose streambed is visible. If the words I use to think with become vicious over time—if they begin to splash around, kick up mud, and fog my river of thought—then I must reproach them, remove them, or recognize that I cannot rely on words alone for the transparency I seek.

So it is that I turn to pictures. As a thinker and an artist, my language is not limited to words; it also includes colors, lights, forms, lines, textures. I do not solely think about pictures—I also think in pictures. My thoughts become clear in relation to the quality of the pictures I encounter, whether they be made by me or by others. I can’t exactly explain what happens when I engage in this picture-thinking process. Is it that I start with certain arguments, which are made cogent as they are exemplified through the concrete space of a pictorial plane? Or is it that, through making and observing pictures, my arguments are themselves made and observed. Maybe it's a bit of both.

My interpretation of the pictures I encounter is therefore not aimed toward historical accuracy, but toward thought-clarity. I am conscious that much of what I say about certain pictures is perhaps not what the artists would have agreed with, and I make connections between works which can appear forced. I engage in some distorting, I won’t deny that, because my aim is not to merely circulate information. I use pictures as a philosophical tool; as a concrete space to explore, create, and clarify my thoughts.

How I approach pictures is not just influenced by my philosophical endeavours, but also by the fact that I myself am an artist, who is interested in making pictures. I do not want to only see what the artist did see, or what historians tried to see, but what can eventually be seen. What potentialities hide in this picture? What future works are suggested? What limbs stretch out from this picture which I can latch onto? My interpretation of an artist’s work must diverge from their assumed or explicit intentions, because my interest is in what takes place beyond them. If I limit myself to the 'facts', to accuracy, then I am in a position of staticity, when I wish to be in one of creation.

I once feared that engaging in research would disrupt my ability to come to my own conclusions, whether they were philosophical or artistic. I worried that the facts I discovered would confine my imagination, or worse, disillusion me. And I disliked more than anything the feeling of disillusionment—to have interpreted a picture in one light, only to find out that it was the wrong light, while the correct light was not nearly as illuminating. Why then do I now embrace research, if I wish to keep my delusions intact?

I have since realized that research and delusion are connected. My logic is inspired by Oscar Wilde, who talks of criticism—of interpreting, analyzing, and reviewing art–as “a creation within a creation” (Wilde, 1891/2020, pg. 78). To the critic, value is not primarily found in discovering what the work expresses to them, but in discovering what it impresses on them. Criticism as such “treats the work of art simply as a starting-point for a new creation. It does not confine itself ... to discovering the real intention of the artist and accepting that as final.” (pg. 80).

To criticize is to create, and so the good critic—like the good artist—must allow themselves to departure from reality. They must develop "the temper of a liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibly, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind!" (pg. 8). The critic must lie, and be honest about it. They must be untethered by the facts, and heal their “careless habits of accuracy.” (pg. 10). Facts must be taken as nothing more than squishy, moist clay; waiting to be molded by the critic’s impressions. The critic musn't avoid research then, because it is only through research that they can gather their material, their squishy facts. More research leads to more material, which leads to a growing configuration of molded facts, whose complex entanglement becomes, in the end, a new creation.

And so it is for this reason that I do research; not to fix my ignorance, not to seek the truth, but to further the complexity of my own delusions.

Cyber Moonflower


⚪️ Some notes on 'thinking in pictures'…