Let's blur the line between science, art, and culture using a new paradigm.
by Loren A. Roberts (guru of multi-hyphenate media)
I picked up my (not)-collecter's-item Warhol-inspired limited edition Campbell's Soup cans at Target on Sunday morning. All of us cheap-art-loving-early-risers standing in the line at the checkout counter were trying to think of when we had last eaten Campbell's tomato soup. Apparently, our reticence to eat soup is a trend:
“The [Warhol] promotion comes as Campbell looks to turn around its struggling soup business after years of declining sales. The company plans to introduce dozens of new products this year.”
And why are sales declining? Because we think that the salt content of soup is unhealthy. Which leads me to a question: when did we decide that salt is unhealthy?
Historically, salt was called "white gold" and was a prized commodity. The term “salary” comes from the Latin “salarium;” Roman soldiers soldiers were paid for their services with salt (“sal” in Latin).
Our current medical understanding has made us fear excess salt in our diets because of the resulting high blood pressure. And it's not only salt: we watch our refined sugar intake, our refined flour intake, and how much meat we eat (or whether we eat it at all). What is interesting, though, is that our medical understanding keeps changing. When I was younger, “low fat” was all the rage; now, we are beginning to understand that different fats are actually good for you. Medical breakthroughs change our conception of what is good or not every few years; consequently, our paradigm for food consumption must change as well.
I make no apology for reading my son’s freshman year summer reading book, entitled “Einstein’s Dreams.” In it, the author explores the kinds of mental gymnastics that Einstein must have gone through to imagine a world governed by a completely new paradigm of time. Check out the beautiful prose:
In the world in which time is a circle, every handshake, every kiss, every birth, every word, will be repeated precisely. So too every moment that friends stop becoming friends, every time that a family is broken because of money, every vicious remark in an argument between spouses, every opportunity denied because of a superior’s jealousy, every promise not kept.
And just as all things will be repeated in the future, all things now happening happened a million times before. Some few people in every town, in their dreams, are vaguely aware that all has occured in the past. These are the people with unhappy lives, and they sense that their misjudgments and wrong deeds and bad luck have all taken place in the previous loop of time. In the dead of night these cursed citizens wrestle with their bedsheets, unable to rest, stricken with the knowledge that they cannot change a single action, a single gesture. Their mistakes will be repeated precisely in this life as in the life before. And it is these double unfortunates who give the only sign that time is a circle. For in each town, late at night, the vacant streets and balconies fill up with their moans.
Check the book out sometime. Each chapter looks at a different way to experience time, that might be possible given Einstein’s brilliant concept of time through the lens of general relativity.
Think about the way that Andy Warhol changed art: bringing it out from the rarefied halls of rich people to encompass something as mundane and public as a soup can. His art marked a paradigm shift in what art was, and who could access it, and even who could own it (like me!).
CHANGING YOUR PARADIGM
What strikes me is how important it is to understand that we are always operating within a paradigm -- a way of seeing the world around us. And, like with salt, or fat, or the concept of spacetime, or the definition of art, these paradigms can change. There was no way for Einstein’s incredible work in physics to take place using the paradign of space and time that was accepted at that point in history: he had to dream up an entirely new way of looking at the universe.
How often do we get stuck in our lives because we’re so glued to the current paradigm? As you begin your day, and come upon a problem, ask yourself: What rules do I think I am governed by? How can simply changing my paradigm help me solve this issue?
And remember, some salt is still good for you. Your blood vessels don’t work without salt. The electrical impulses that fire in your neurons don’t fire without salt. So go ahead, eat that Campbell’s soup, and, with eyes wide open, change your paradigm.
LOREN A. ROBERTS produces films, videos and music, designs magazines and logos, plays and sings in a rock-and-roll tribute band, and is a student of what happens when science and technology and the arts and culture collide. www.hearkencreative.com
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