The personal meaning of objects… the role of visualization in memory… a construct of the world created through the recognition of objects and of people. Threaded through these narratives has been an overarching theme – that our human senses are extraordinarily perceptive! We are capable of distinguishing subtle and nuanced differences in the properties of objects. Beyond this, our capability to process and filter the meaning of these differences is incredibly sophisticated.
As children, we are very open to sensing these differences. When we grow up, we are more likely to make assumptions based on past experience than to engage in careful observation. A habit of economy, perhaps honed through natural selection; if a fight or flight decision should arise, our chance of survival is better if we can rely on stored information – rather than stopping to inspect each blade of grass, or each individual snowflake.
Of course, if we were to be once again like a child, unable to filter our observations or to rely on our mental construct of the world, we would never get anything done. Every moment would be a voyage of discovery, interesting and new, all the time! Exhausting. We would stand and marvel at the universe around us, and never get down to the practical necessities of life.
Yet something is undeniably lost if we entirely let go of the acute childhood powers of observation. Give yourself the opportunity to be genuinely open and receptive and you may rekindle a childlike sense of wonder within. The enjoyment of a collection of objects can be one such experience.
There are many kinds of collections and reasons for collecting, and to be sure, not all of them can be appreciated in this way. Some may exist to illustrate an aspect of history or science, or a cultural narrative. Some may be beautiful, some disturbing. But the extent to which an individual can connect to a collection depends greatly on the interaction between one’s personal construct, the objects themselves, and the way in which they are presented to us, in a thematic sense.
In this interaction, there are two roles to play. One is the observer, and the second is the selective self, the editor, the orchestrator. Sometimes we may take on one role, sometimes the other – and sometimes both at once. The latter role is that of framing an experience, while the former role appears deceptively simple… to once again be the eager child who is receptive and alight with wonder, to be for a moment free from the comfortable and familiar construct of the world we have created, and simply be open – with wonder and delight.
Image: Photomicroscope Photographs of Snowflakes by Kenneth G. Libbrecht, Caltech, used with permission.
You can see more of Kenneth G. Libbrecht’s spectacular images, and learn more about his research at: www.snowcrystals.com