Doug Bruns

The Practice of Discovery

In Creativity, The Examined Life, The infinity of ideas on March 15, 2013 at 6:00 am

For a while, as a young man, I wanted to be an archeologist. I moved on, as young men do. I still, however, harbor a need of excavation, which is another way of saying for discovery.

Pollock at work

Pollock at work

I recently read an essay by architect, thinker, and designer, Lance Hosey. The piece was called Why We Love Beautiful Things, and the comment that caught my eye was:

“Could Pollock’s late paintings result from his lifelong effort to excavate an image buried in all our brains?”

I am drawn to this notion, the idea that the “image is buried in all our brains.” I made a note of this sentence because it rings true. I know less about Jackson Pollock’s art than I do about archeology, yet I believe in discovery and, on occasion, understand the motive behind it.


We live within the embrace of linear progression. That is, life on a line, moving

Art of Jackson Pollock

Art of Jackson Pollock

right. This fashion of cognition is a result, I think, of learning to read, left to right across the page. It does not surprise me that in Eastern cultures, where reading flows in other directions or is contained within an visual character, that life is,  traditionally depicted, not on a progressive time-line, but as mandala, a wheel, a circle.

If Pollock’s pursuit was to plumb the human psyche, it was devoid of the linear. It takes an artist to show us the myth that is progression; that the study should not be forward to become, but deep to be.


You will have to excuse me please today. I know I have grown ponderous, and perhaps silly. Sorry–it’s just that sometimes you’ve got to give an idea some breathing room, no matter what. (It is a type of excavation.)

Have a nice weekend,


  1. Reading you and I became stunned by your meticulous prose; and I lack grace enough to provide a good descriptor; but wow, the human voice speaking about things; knowledge of the self in relationship to others.
    And you too have a nice weekend,

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts here is a quote that came to mind.

    “Shaped from something of earth and something of heaven, we were torn between two worlds. A part of us wanted to hide. A part of us wanted to search. With half-remember words still legible in our hearts and faintly sketched images still visible in our souls, some of us stepped out of hiding and started our search.
    Though we hardly knew it.

    We painted to see if what was lost was in the picture. We composed to hear if what was lost was in the music. We sculpted to find if what was lost was in the stone. We wrote to discover if what was lost was in the story.

    Through art and music and stories we searched for what was missing from our lives.

    Though at times we hardly knew it.
    Thought at times we could hardly keep from knowing it.”
    Ken Gire

    • Pat ~ Thanks for sharing this. It is a perfect compliment to the morning post. In fact, I think the other “…house…” readers would appreciate it. I think I will post it as a sort of footnote to the post. Very insightful connection. Much appreciated.

  3. Interesting that you should compare the direction of reading/letters of the alphabet with the idea of progression. There’s something for me to think about, there.

    Also, progression would be equivalent to time, yes? In that case, your inchoate idea here has antecedents in the history of philosophy, and quantum physics. The concept of time, you’d recall was circular in the ancient Greek tradition, and linear in continental philosophy.

    I think discovery, and my mind goes: Eureka! Time for a bath!

    • Thanks for your comment, Geetha. Very insightful and appreciated. I confess that I was not aware that the ancient Greeks thought of time in the circular. I think I made an assumption to the contrary based on Heraclitus and his river. It was actually reading of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity yesterday that got these wheels turning. (Yesterday was his birthday.) In summary, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the notion of “Becoming what you are” (Nietzsche on Pindar) and the idea of progression toward a better self….

      I suspect there has been work done on how we think about time as it relates to our language–at least there should be. Regardless of that, I’m arriving at the conclusion that both the concept of “becoming” and the “self” are fraught with troubles. I suspect strongly that this is the result of eastern philosophy on my thinking as well as decades of reading western thinkers and finding them coming up short.

      You are right, physics gives us a perspective of the topic (time) without the trappings of language (Wittgenstein would approve). The idea is still half-baked, but I’m trying to get at the notion that art transcends language (and mathematics) and in doing so forces us out of the concepts of time, becoming, and self.

      I appreciate you pushing me a bit further down that path.
      Thanks for stopping by “…the house…”

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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