My Share of Old Stuff

I discovered this very interesting post ostensibly about “old stuff” by Stuart M. Perkins, which you can read here. I enjoy reading Stuart’s stories, which I think of as works of art which he “shucks” from his autobiography.

The Lantern of Diogenes and other poems by Jenny Lind Porter (old)

The Lantern of Diogenes and other poems by Jenny Lind Porter (old)

His story about his “old stuff” evoked a couple of trains of thought. One train is one of my own stories of old stuff, a book of poetry by one of my undergraduate teachers, Dr. Jenny Lind Porter, entitled “The Lantern of Diogenes and Other Poems.” The book is not an antique in the sense of being from an early period in the history of humanity, but fits the definition of “antique” in that it’s from an earlier period in my personal history. I think of Stuart’s story about old stuff as being more about connections between persons than about antiques. Dr. Porter’s book of poems reminds me of her as one of my first mentors in my college education. She taught Freshman English and classical literature at Huston-Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson University) in Austin, Texas when I was a student there in the 1970s. She taught me as much about life as she did about the trials of Odysseus. I tried to describe my impression in a post.

Dr. Jenny Lind Porter

Dr. Jenny Lind Porter

I didn’t get a copy of the “The Lantern of Diogenes” until decades later. The bookseller enclosed a handwritten note in the parcel containing the book:

It’s rare to find a book of this age that when you open the pages it creaks like it is unread. I guess someone liked the way it looked on their bookshelf!

The book is a relic, reminding me of an earlier period of my life, even the eras preceding my college years. Nearly always these memories are about my connections with other people.

The other train of thought is from an article by Eric Kandel, entitled “The New Science of Mind and the Future of Knowledge.” The paper happens to be the subject of a new discussion on our new online journal club on LinkedIn, Psychiatry Online Lifelong Learning (POLL), so this post is also a plug for that.

The Shawl, ca. 1900. Artist Charles Sprague Pearce. American, 1851-1914. Oil on Canvas. Members of the Elvehjem Museum of Art and UW Art Collections Funds purchase, 1985.2. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, Wisconsin.

The Shawl, ca. 1900. Artist Charles Sprague Pearce. American, 1851-1914. Oil on Canvas. Members of the Elvehjem Museum of Art and UW Art Collections Funds purchase, 1985.2. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, Wisconsin…a place my wife and I miss.

The section that applies is “The Beholder’s Share and Face Recognition,” which probably sounds puzzling to readers, but it’s a subsection of “Neuroscience Links to the Perception of Art.”

Kandel emphasized visual art in this section, but we could apply the main ideas to other works of art including literature as well if you think of appreciation of this form of art as arising in the mind’s eye.

Kandel writes that the beholder’s share starts with the idea that art appreciation entails “…the perceptual and emotional involvement of the viewer.” In any kind of art, the beholder and the artist are both involved in making the work of art what it is. The old saying that “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like,” is true in a sense. The beholder collaborates with the artist by responding empathically and psychologically in terms of his or her own personal perceptions and experiences. That’s the beholder’s share.

That’s my old stuff. Farewell, father.

References:

Porter, J. L. (1954). The Lantern of Diogenes and Other Poems. San Antonio, The Naylor Company Book Publishers.

Kandel, E. (2013). “The new science of mind and the future of knowledge.” Neuron 80(3): 546-560.

Understanding mental processes in biological terms makes available insights from the new science of the mind to explore connections between philosophy, psychology, the social sciences, the humanities, and studies of disorders of mind. In this Perspective we examine how these linkages might be forged and how the new science of the mind might serve as an inspiration for further exploration.

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