Paintings, Sunsets, and Starry Nights: some thoughts on logic, moments, and reality

“Imagination does not breed insanity… reason [does…]

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea;

reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. 

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.

The poet desires only exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. 

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.

It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

GK Chesterton, “Orthodoxy”


I love taking ideas apart. I love analyzing. 

Sometimes though, when I spend too much time in that part of my brain I begin feeling messed up and anxious inside. 

Because I find it so intriguing, I’ve occasionally spent days taking apart my own perspectives, and wow… As healthy as it is to reevaluate the way you see the world, getting stuck there for days on end without a break is bad for your soul. I know because I’ve been there.

It makes me a irritable and a bit crazy.

You can really get lost in your own head when you heavily critique your own ways of understanding everything.

There’s nothing wrong with science and logic; they help us make sense of the observable.

But logic doesn’t equal reality,

nor can it sum up or contain the scope of my or anyone’s experience of reality. 

A sunset, or a the night sky bursting with stars for example:

We could break the components of both down until we arrive at subatomic particles, and be awed by their intricacies.

But even if we got to the point where we understood everything about both of them and published them in a scientific journal, we still would not have encompassed the whole of either of them.

It’s still just a bunch of words and paper. It still doesn’t have the same effect on us. 

After reading all that, what we really want to do is go outside and look at the real thing– to absorb the light and the colors with our senses and feel the cooling evening air against the surface of our skin. 

Words by nature are binary (they cause us to choose one shade at expense of a slightly different one). They’re so helpful for the specifics of daily life, but they’re great strength also limits them tremendously.

Think of one of your most beautiful or sacred moments. In all the time you’ve spent on earth, there are probably a few moments when time stood still, or when the normal lines between reality and imagination blurred, or when the curtain was pulled tight in front of you and you could dimly see what felt like another dimension.

Now try to put words to it. Frustrating, right?

Of course it is.

Do you know why our transcendent moments are hard to recount? Our brains actually have to reconstruct, limit, and condense these experiences, as they move from the place in our brain they reside, to the language part so we’re able to try talking about these experiences and even then we manage to find some words for them we speak in abstract terms or use metaphor/simile. 

“It hurt like fire, but also felt like a father’s warm embrace…” The specifics are lost on us because words don’t do it justice.

Logic is only one limited lens through which we can look at reality, but if I spend all my time looking at it through that one, I cease to be able to fully experience the fulleness, theessence of life: both the beautiful and the ugly.

Here’s my concern:

I often analyze at the expense of experiencing the moment. While others have lost themselves in it,  I’m sitting there tearing it apart deciding what I like and don’t like about it, and how I would present my opinion about it to someone who might disagree with me. And worse, sometimes I even say these things out loud and spoil it for others. 

It’s a ridiculous approach to something as amazing as life. There are people who live, suspending their own two cent analysis, just unabashedly enjoying the realness of existence… then I come along.

And I have the audacity to scornfully observe to myself, that they’re not thinking about their existence properly–that they’d be so much more enlightened if they’d think about it like I do. But in that moment, I’ve turned into a mere spectator. 

How, in any meaningful sense of the word do I have a better grasp on living well, simply because (rather than actually living and loving life, or whatever else it is we approach this way) I’ve torn it apart and have carefully worded opinions on it?

It’s like buying a gorgeous painting and hanging it on the wall, but right in the middle of it I’ve fastened a piece of paper telling everyone what I like about it and what I think it’s worth.

Who cares?

It’s distracting first of all, cheapening, second, and third, it’s hindering  others from seeing and feeling it for themselves.

It turns out the moment needs my analysis and price tag about as much as the painting does.

It doesn’t need it.

What the Spirit is telling me through the moment is not audible if I’m pillaging the good people, the healthy dialogue, the stunning sunset, the uncomfortable situation, the hard work for something to prop up the things I’m already telling myself. 

There’s a time and a season for everything. Reflection and analysis are not bad; they’re just not everything. There’s time for that afterward, in the stillness and quiet.

It’s a bit late for a New Years resolution, but this year I’d like to do better at not analyzing the life out of everything–to be conscious of turning off the logical, analytical part of my mind before my soul starts suffering. 

If you’re breathing, if I’m breathing, it’s never to late to begin living life for all it’s worth.


“How you see anything is how you see everything.
How you do this moment is how you do every moment. 
If right now (I hope it’s not true)…
you’re trying to prove how I’m wrong, why I’m wrong,
and you’re marshaling your arguments to disprove [what] I’m saying,
…I just want to warn you of this:
that if you’re doing this right now with me,
I am willing to bet that you do this with your wife,
your husband,
with your children,
with your neighborhood,
with your church,
in your politics
–that’s the way you do the moment.
You tear it apart; you critique it.
That’s your way of defending yourself from truth,
from anything that might lead you outside your comfort zone.”
-Richard Rohr



One comment on “Paintings, Sunsets, and Starry Nights: some thoughts on logic, moments, and reality

  1. Becca says:

    I needed to read this again today. You’re wise and I love you. And now I’m going outside to turn off my analytical self and nourish my soul.

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