– Alberto Giacometti
I learned in my first sculpture class in college that a three dimensional sculpture communicates and interacts with its viewer in all three dimensions. (This seems somewhat obvious, I guess, but it’s really not that simple.) In other words, a sculpture’s depth, width, and height (along with other elements like color, texture, and movement, that live on that depth, width, and height) each communicate based on the relative size, viewing position, and experience of the viewer as he engages the sculpture. So, if you are trying to communicate and create a relationship with a viewer through the experience of a sculpture, you had better consider it fully in three dimensions.
Herein lies a beautiful nugget of wisdom about life. We obviously live in (at least) three dimensions; so, our experiences and interactions all exist in (at least) three dimensions. (Time can be considered a fourth.) But, as we interact, process, and learn from our world, I wonder if we truly consider it in all three dimensions. Do we truly explore our world from all angles, or just continually process it from one vantage point, that of our own personal experience and comfort-level? Do we communicate in 3D? Do we observe in 3D?
Leveraging sculpture as a means of understanding life, perhaps we can understand our communication, relationships, and experiences in 3D:
Dimension 1: Direct experience - my experience of a relationship, image, event, circumstance, etc. This is the “I” dimension.
Dimension 2: Divergent perspectives - others’ experiences of a relationship, image, event, circumstance, etc. The “you” dimension.
Dimension 3: Determining the implications: The interactions between and implications of dimensions 1 and 2. The “we” dimension.
To truly understand my direct experience, I must be willing and able to reflect on and analyze my own perceptions and responses to various stimuli. I need to be able to identify the emotions that are, or are not, involved in my experience. I need to understand what the experience means to me and how or why it either resonates or does not. I need to clarify the messages I receive as I understand them and see how they mesh with the messages I perceive to have been intended. Finally, I must try to identify what piece of myself I project on my perception of others’ intentions. Whether it is a personal relationship, a piece of art, a life event, or even a story or commercial on television, my experience is biased by who I am, how I understand the world, and even where I am at the given moment of the experience. It is neither objective nor absolute.
This is why being open to the second dimension (divergent perspectives) is so critical: it’s the same complex web for the “other” experiencing the very same relationship, piece of art, life event, or television commercial. They bring all of their junk to it too! It is their “I” experience. If we are to communicate and relate genuinely, we must understand, or at least empathize with (we still don’t have to like), each other’s “I” experience and some of the individual bases for our respective understanding of that experience. In a world so desperately seeking political, economic, and moral truths, we have to realize that at its essence there is not ever a truly common experience; there is no fundamental truth at the level of human interaction. All perspectives and experiences are at some level divergent. The “I” experience and the “you” experience are never exactly the same. So, if we are to expand our lives to living in a second dimension, we must focus not merely on understanding the event, but understanding the experience of the event by others.
So, let’s pretend for a moment that each of us is truly invested in understanding the other, committed to living in the second dimension. Now, we have to understand how our unique and divergent experiences impact the nature of our relationship, and in return, our subsequent experiences of dimensions 1 and 2. We have to determine the interactions between and implications of “I” and “you” on “we”. This third dimension is the space between you and I that, while dependent on each of us, also generates its own dynamics and has its own independent characteristics. Candidly, unless you live in complete isolation, the world of “we” is the “real” world, and most of the challenges of this “we” dimension lie in our failures to deeply engage the “I” and “you” dimensions. We often fail to acknowledge that this relational dimension is a new and distinct entity – a sculpture perhaps.
While our lives are a process of constant ebb and flow and our identity and relational dimensions are always in flux, we can deepen who we are and how we are with the world by engaging a three dimensional process of communication and understanding. We can improve our communication, strengthen our understanding of the world around us, and even create new life through new relationships by being mindful that we do, in fact, live in 3D.