Our everyday lives are full of nonsense.
There is so much of it that we rarely evennotice. In fact, nonsense constitutes thevery essence of our lives, as we still don’thave a clue about its actual meaning.
Probably this is why humans are sogood at making sense out of nonsense.
The Gestalt Psychology [ 1], epitomizedby the phrase “the whole is other thanthe sum of its parts,” devised a numberof organizing principles of perceptionthat the human mind follows in order tomake sense and simplify the multitudeof received stimuli (see Figure 2). These“laws” include proximity, similarity,closure, symmetry, continuity, pastexperience, and so on.
Most scientific domains utilizevarious forms of nonsense, includingambiguity and paradox, in order to formnew questions, challenge establishedtheories, and find better ways to explainthe chaotic nature of our universe.
Nonsense and science can sometimesbe so interweaved that there are cases
such Absurdities as are shewn in thisFrontispiece” (Figure 1). But Hogarthmanaged to achieve exactly the oppositeeffect of what he intended. The resultingpicture is highly imaginative and a lotmore interesting than the thousandsof other paintings made by people whopossessed and applied “the Knowledgeof PERSPECTIVE.” In other words,Hogarth’s creativity was unknowinglysparked by an intentional combinationof what he deemed as utter stupidity,ignorance, and nonsense.
At this point it should be stronglyemphasized that this article does notsuggest replacing other established andvalued resources of (creative) thinkingand design with stupidity, ignorance,and nonsense. It merely indicates thatthese human traits—if properly andknowingly employed—can positivelycontribute to the originality of the endresult. Just like a spice, they cannotreplace an actual meal, and too muchof them will eventually spoil it (or theeater’s health).
“Nonsense is so
good only because
common sense is
— GEORGE SANTAYANA(1863-1952)
Figure 1. “Satire on False Perspective”by William Hogarth (1697–1764)