notes for meeting 14

TUESDAY May 2, 2022



We consider now our presentations:

Classic lectures, rich in sentiment, 

With scraps of thundrous epic lilted out

By eager but unsettled students,

some soon perhaps to be violet‑hooded Doctors, 

others masters of their arts

They give us elegies

And quoted odes, and jewels five‑words‑long,

That on the stretched forefinger of all Time

                            Sparkle in memory for ever. 


          (paraphrasing Tennyson)



  • CHECK-IN: this week, your week’s experience and what stood out for you from Professor Lyons presentation on April 25 at the print shop.


BUILDING on our experience of  Beauvais Lyon’s exercises and presentations  (if you were unable be present, be sure to watch … Creative License (2011) on Beauvais Lyons and the Hokes Archives)

With respect to the DRAWING EXERCISE: Read about Sam Scudder’s experience at Harvard: Take This Fish and Look at It” and 


PRESENTATIONS?  someone observed that each time they try to explain their ideas they become more clear to themselves–enabling more depth and creative exploration:  reminding me of a comment by John Prine: “You don’t always know what your song’s about until you are able to sing it to somebody else…”  of course (as with all art) we begin with our selves– even so far as to read them out loud.

Keep up the good work… Clearly, these were very diverse–definitely not cookie-cutter presentations–and it has become clear that some of of you, consciously or not, are treating your presentations as works of ART — abstracting–distilling–the vast amount of thought and material you have accumulated and extracting the information and insight you can communicate to the rest of us.  


THE SCAFFOLD IS EASY:  You are going to tell 

“The best story we can tell with the best evidence we have”


But then we are concerned with either binding the multiplicity of things together or keeping the WHOLE thing from disintegrating into lots of shards and fragments…  

THINGS EMERGENT –from your presentations:   

SENTIENCE:  LET YOUR HEART BE BROKEN – Marginalian: “We spend our lives trying to anchor our transience in some illusion of permanence and stability. We lay plans, we make vows, we backbone the flow of uncertainty with habits and routines that lull us with the comforting dream of predictability and control, only to find ourselves again and again bent at the knees with surrender to forces and events vastly larger than us. In those moments, kneeling in a pool of the unknown, the heart breaks open and allows life — life itself, not the simulacrum of life that comes from control — to rush in.” (Maria Popova)  [recalls One of Leonard Cohen’s most beloved lyric lines, from the song “Anthem,” “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” 


CONSCIOUSNESS: THE GREAT PARADOX OF CONSCIOUSNESS: “The great paradox of consciousness is that it constitutes both our entire experience of reality and our blindfold to reality as it really is. Forever trapped within it, we mistake our concepts of things for the things themselves, our theories for the universe, continually seeing the world not as it is but as we are. The supreme frontier of human freedom may be the ability to accept that something exists beyond understanding, that understanding is a machination of the mind and not a mirror of the world — that the world simply is, and our consciousness is a participant in its being but not a creator of it.”  (Maria Popova’s Marginalian on practical mysticism.


LOVE & AUTHENTICITY.   About 15 years ago I taught a Chancellor’s Honors course on “The Natural History of Love” and used Sternberg’s three-part analysis to help interpret experience (intimacy, passion, commitment)–(thanks for spotting that Laurel, A&O-2015) … I have lots to think about now given the place I’ve given “love” in scholarship and art.  I’ve known people (maybe even myself, at times) to be obsessively concerned with with a project. pursuing greater and greater intimacy, with increasing passion and commitment.    Thinking of all CREATIVITY, not least that of the artist,  as engaging these same cognitive processes, it is easy to see how their balanced interaction can co-constitute a great work… 

MORE: part of the “great work” involves the progressive unfolding of “authenticity“–communication of one’s deepest self

(perhaps even more deeply than one are aware: in her the brilliant set piece song at the heart of the movie Evita: Madonna sings, “Have I said too much? / There’s nothing more / I can think of / To say to you…” an expression of a profound existential gamble: “I love you/and hope you love me” –listen here]) 

Authenticity enables the way of connecting to others at the deepest levels possible.  But that can be easily misunderstood and even dangerous (leading to narcissism): see the last paragraph I added to our page on RULES [HERE]  then read some mechanistic notes about DESIRE (below)    [DEEPER: is there ever an end to the pursuit of authenticity as we navigate the levels of organization and consciousness–or might it be that the navigation itself is the point?] (good scientists that we are, we describe the hell out of it, then tell the best story we can with the best facts we have–always poignantly aware that facts change)   

SAPIENCE and SENTIENCE  — how we energize cognition to meet our NEEDS.

there is an essential tension





LIKING, WANTING, LEARNING in honey bees and humans


“In mammals, the subconscious “wanting” of something, such as food, is facilitated by a complex neurobiological process that involves dopaminergic signaling. In a eusocial animal, such as the honey bee, individuals supply food not just for themselves but also for their colony. Huang et al. looked at the neurobiological basis of wanting in honey bees (Apis mellifera) and found that it is also controlled by a dopamine-based signaling process, suggesting a shared mechanism across millions of years of divergence (see the Perspective by Garcia and Dyer). Furthermore, they found that wanting was stimulated in bees based on their own individual desire to forage as well as observation of the bee waggle dance, suggesting the existence of a colony-level motivation mechanism. —SNV


“The study of how brains encode pleasure (12) has uncovered the neural and molecular underpinnings of hedonic (i.e., pleasant) experiences such as reward. Psychological components in the processing of appetitive rewards have been identified (3) and traced to dissociable circuits in the mammalian brain (1): (i) “liking,” which refers to the actual pleasurable impact of reward consumption; (ii) “wanting,” which refers to the motivation to reach the reward; and (iii) “learning,” which includes the implicit and explicit information about reward acquired through individual experience (4). In mammals, the process of wanting is mediated by neural systems that include mesolimbic dopamine (15).   (Read Huang et al. 2022)


At what levels do these developmental/physiological variables speak to your relationship with art and artifacts? 


(wanting an experience may facilitate learning which then loops back to affect the neurobiology of wanting)


Our greatest artists work by intuition and  experience to find the path that penetrates most deeply into the mind of the viewer:  This heart-to-heart conversation may be the richest expression of intersubjectivity and our co-creation of truth (such as we are able to discern it)



Any understanding we believe ourselves to possess emerges from a narrow range of the levels of organization which appear to pervade the universe:  we are ORGANISMS and our current nature is structured by our capacity for MEMORY and IMAGINATION: competencies that emerge from a “lower” (=”less complex”) PHYSIOLOGICAL level of organization–our nervous system.   An in itself, its capacity for neuroplasticity during DEVELOPMENT is derived from a combination of congenital (evolved) and acquired (learned) genetic programs–some more-or-less sensitive to their ECOLOGY (as in more-or-less “open- or closed-genetic programs).  Our qualities as an organism are also the products of our “selves” as ECOSYSTEMS: our bodies in collaboration (and hopefully harmony) with the countless other organisms –microbiota and parasites that live within us.  This is a challenging view for biologists that believed that nature is an endless competition, “red in tooth and claw.”  While there is certainly competition, it is cooperation that advances species to their position.  As with development (“a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal”), cooperation and competition are in balance there is a balance — both within individuals as they pursue their adaptive needs and individuate and between them as conflicting patterns find an accord during socialization.

A seductive metaphor for our capacity to understand resembles (for me) our capacity to perceive the nature in which we find ourselves: the limits on wave-lengths of light or frequencies of sounds.   

BUT limits on cognition, doesn’t dampen our disposition to dig as deeply as possible into the cascades of causation (and to hypothesize as much as possible into the likely consequences–the futures) has led some unexpected places:  in physics we now believe that there are no static entities, but that the ultimate phenomena are clouds of probabilities that we used to call subatomic particles.  A recent visualization that was devise to help us accept some counter-intuitive beliefs is PROCESSES not OBJECTS  (https://aeon.co/videos/to-see-the-universe-more-clearly-think-in-terms-of-processes-not-objects). Take a look





CONNECTIONS (it should be clear now that there are connections within and between levels of organization–to help our seminar community keep in touch and provide mutual support, e-mail addresses and mind-maps+presentations (when I have them) are linked below):







CONNECTIONS (it should be clear now that there are connections within and between levels of organization):

here are e-mails to provide another way of connecting with each other


Anthony Huangthuang6@vols.utk.eduinner peace, flow, wu wei  
Brittany Okweyebokweye@vols.utk.edupink 
Brooke N Stillsonbstillso@vols.utk.edubiol 
Delaney Reillydreilly2@vols.utk.edusleep & creativity 
Eliza Frensleyefrensle@vols.utk.eduAuthenticity 
Emily Paige Brockebrock10@vols.utk.eduAppalachian folk art 
Gino Castellanosgcastell@vols.utk.eduarchetypal artist’s talk 
Grace Cochrangcochra6@vols.utk.eduAnonymous artists 
Haleigh Ann Eicherheicher@vols.utk.eduinto the woods 
Hayley J Eliz Simpsonhayjsimp@vols.utk.edupain and  pleasure 
Hannah Langerhlanger@vols.utk.eduto walk among skeletons 
Hayden Morriscmk468@vols.utk.edutba 
Kaitlyn Andersonkande113@vols.utk.eduinterdependent interactions 
Keller Alexanderwalexan9@vols.utk.eduDEEP ethology of ants with wings 
Kyle Michael Cottierkcottier@vols.utk.edusculpture: A gesture of Surrender 
Sophie Greenwellsgreenw4@utk.edudefining art with the senses 
Zoie Lamberttlambe12@vols.utk.eduself-sabatage