Finding Meno

I followed a circuitous route to get to the idea I want to present this week and the whole thing will likely make you laugh.  But there are strands of truth that I know I picked up on this journey.  It started with a “Brain Pickings” weekly email. (Which is something worthy of exploration, if you haven’t already.

In the email the author Rebecca Solnit ( mentions a quote read to her by a student “…. from what she said was the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno.”  (Actually, Meno is a dialogue written by “post-Socratic” Plato—but never mind about that.) The quote as the student reported was: “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”  From what I can discern from a little research, (And I really mean a little research) no such quote exists. But regardless, it was all I need to start connecting dots.

The entire conversation in this paragraph is above my pay-grade, but it helps me make a point that I struggle to make again and again and again.  It is something I forget and so regularly need to be reminded of. It goes something like this: Meno asks Socrates to define virtue. Socrates says there is a list of varieties of virtue, no real definition, blah, blah, blah—it gets way more complex than that, but this is not Philosophy Talk. He believed that virtue is not teachable, virtue is within us, and we must find it. (Picasso said: “I do not seek, I find”—ah-huh!) Socrates states: “[A] man cannot search either for what he knows or for what he does not know[.] He cannot search for what he knows–since he knows it, there is no need to search–nor for what he does not know, for he does not know what to look for.”

Think about that—it is the same thing Picasso was so famous for saying.  In the act of real creating, you are creating– you don’t know what you’re looking for. You must find it.

Now to the “miss-quote” attributed to Meno, which I really like no matter who said it: In order to go about finding that thing, the nature of which is totally unknown to you, one must experience transformation. The very act of seeing the same things in a new way can’t help but be transformative at some level.

This is where you will laugh—that led me Collage! –Collage (From the French: coller, to glue:  is a technique of an art production, primarily used in the visual arts, where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. (Source- Wikipedia.)

So I got to thinking of how sifting through bits of experience and memory—maybe in the form of actual objects, maybe just in the imagination, maybe in the form of new images that evoke reaction–not seeking anything in particular but responding and recording—noticing what you notice– is a way to find a transformation and confirm artistic intent (which is already there whether you know it or not) and create something new.  It’s time for Collage!

You’re going to love this link: .  PLAY! PLAY! PLAY!

You’re going to likely not love what I propose as an exercise this week. Most of you are working on a piece in progress.  Let that image inform a collage communicating the same idea, emotion, etc.  You may want to gather from stuff at home, as well as use what we have here. Or you may want to canabalize other paintings.  It can be a different size and format, but take the challenge to make it as sophisticated as you can.

Both Leslie and Laura have been working with this concept quite successfully.

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4 Responses to Finding Meno

  1. Anonymous says:

    I found this page in my search, also inspired by Solnit’s essay to find that Meno quote in context. Great essay by the way! (first one from Field Guide to Getting Lost)

    Couldn’t help leave a marker here for others – it IS from Plato’s dialogue Meno. You can find it half way down this page, with a slightly different translation:

    “And how will you enquire, Socrates, into that which you do not know? What will you put forth as the subject of enquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is the thing which you did not know? “

    • joanngilles says:

      thanks for this.

      • Lucy Garrick says:

        Adding to this thread, In the theories of living systems and wholism, there is the concept of emergence. When applied to finding a solution or an answer, solitude and reflection are key ingredients to emergence. That’s may be the reason you find insights emerging during yoga.

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