Possibility – it is an open word, an idea that sits with all of us and is used in multiple ways in the English language and society and its function in multiple mediums of art is a source of interest for me. I think possibility is a start, it’s the beginning of the process of choice It’s being on the precipice of what will or would or could be done. Its future facing, it’s in anticipation of something, it’s not quiet defined yet. It is what fills the vessel of a quantity of potential.
I find space – fictionally defined as the “final frontier”, to be possibility. Every image that the Hubble telescope transmits to us from its gigantic lens is an illustration of the possibility the exists miles and light-years away from us. It’s the possibility of where we could go as humans or what we could see or how old we’d be when we got to the point in space that the telescope happens to be taking a picture of. Each star that is seen or unseen within every image in space is a depiction of possibility. A well known and published image from the Hubble telescope that I think about is called “The birth of a star”. Three unique pillars bursting upward full of gasses pulled together by gravity and crushed to form an event that expands across space and time with a result of illumination. All the colors of the gasses are a result of light being refracted at a particular frequency to give off a color based on the atomic composition of each gas and combination thereof. I can’t help but think; what could become of the life of any of the many stars seen in the image? Will it be a giver of life like our sun? Has it already given life-a life we can’t recognize or will never see? I think scientists are always in search of possibility. The astronomer that the telescope was named after was known for forging the idea that at we are in an expanding universe. The idea of being in an expanding universe also lends itself to the idea of possibility. We are the privileged few sentient beings that have constructed a device that allows us to view deeper into the unknown called space. Or are we even a privileged few? Possibilities……
The grandness of possibility can cut both ways, it can mean hope and can also be a source of fear. Possibility is an unknown, and while we can view the unknown with a sense of hope, for many of us that dark abyss of undefined potential gives us a sense of fear. I feel a great sense of hope when I think about possibility and the unknown outcome of an event or moment. I think a song that captures both views toward possibility and yet lends itself more to this sense of imagination, hope, wonder and the sheer bigness of this existence that I feel when I think about possibility is Rush’s song Natural Science. The hope of possibility is illustrated in the line “Wheels within wheels in a spiral array – A pattern so grand and complex, time after time we lose sight of the way – our causes can’t see their effects” I get excited about the idea of an undefined effect. This can put you in a place that you never thought you’d be in which is an example of growth. While this universe gives us an existing pattern due to the order of nature, we can’t really fathom what’s there due to the sheer vastness of it all. This is possibility at work.
All human beings face possibility every day at every turn. Walking out of your house provides us with possibility. Throughout the course of human history, possibility has helped in define us and our relation to finding ourselves on this planet called earth. This idea of possibility is what gives us religion as well as science. Possibility is a scene that plays itself out every time we have a choice or at every moment we meet. Salvador Dali’s “The Path of Enigmas” 1981 gives definition to possibility. Looking at the painting you have to ask; is possibility represented as one of the small packages along this path towards some luminous orb? Is this package a representation of what can be done? Is it a stop, or a door along our own path – only to present to us more choices? Is this packaged possibility going to alter our course in our own lives? Or is each package a representation of the course of human evolution? I interpret the level of these packaged pieces of “potential” having several layers – the “low hanging fruit” packages of possibility – these are the immediate opportunities. Then there are the hard to reach layers or series of “packages” would take effort to reach and are beyond one’s initial grasp. This supports the idea that these could be more long term possibilities or choices that result in possibility. Possibility could be understood as a function of evolution. Possibility gives us the opportunity to make the effort to go beyond the current existence or standard and literally and figuratively grow.
Shape of the structure of possibility would be something that’s quite difficult to even attempt to express and yet a piece that does just that is Yaacov Agam’s “Welcome”. This kinetic sculpture is a piece that was created for the Mayo Clinic after the man’s son was successfully treated of a heart condition in 1975. He explained that the triangular monolith uses the language of color to encourage people to “rise out of the gray of individual worry and respond to life’s ever-changing rainbow of possibility”. Again the theme of hope is associated to possibility. Hope is an emotion one feels in a place like the Mayo Clinic. While conceptually possibility can be “packages” of choice it’s arranged in a “rainbow” – Several frequencies of light vibration that creates a pattern that is associative, aesthetically harmonious and natural. The piece rotates and seems to display an ever-changing set of patterns and color combinations. This parallels the idea of each choice we are presented with a new array of combinations and patters that exist. The design of the sculpture also yields an illusion of a color wave that moves across each panel of the triangular monolith. This suggests the “ripple effect” from the choices that we make that take form in exponential ways. Hope has this same exponential ripple effect on humans as a population.
The movie “What the Bleep do we know?” discusses the potential behind possibility and its relation to us, our universe and how we interact with it. The movie is a mix of a fictional storyline and a documentary. The movie discusses the idea that this universe is a construction of thought that is formed from everyone’s consciousness. While the specifics behind Quantum Physics are not entirely definable and are argued about, the matter of possibility can be agreed upon. It comes down to the amount of possibility one chooses to recognize within what is presented in this pseudo-documentary. With or without education or knowledge to reference something, possibility will exist for everyone to wrap their emotions, ideas and lives in. The first toe in a tranquil pool sets of unfathomable events.
Despite several attempts to pin-down the idea of possibility I still can’t claim to really be able to successfully encapsulate this vast, nebulous and simultaneously ubiquitous concept. Because it’s a concept it must defy most types of categorization, and yet like the principle behind Quantum Physics, it comes back to the observer. Possibility is always in the eye of the beholder and one’s reaction to is in direct proportion to one’s view of the unknown or undefined. It extends past all classifications of human existence and yet is one of the many threads that binds us all.
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