Before I went on hiatus from teaching due to my sickness, I was teaching a magazine design class called Visions. The purpose of the class was to create a magazine with the same name. The text below is the transcript from a lecture that I gave in that class. I had realized at the time that the students needed a bit more guidance in understanding what I wanted to do with the class. The transcript was written in one sitting. I had gone back and do minor editing on the written text.
One of the things that I have been trying to do in the last several classes has been to guide you through this process of conceptualizing what the final outcome of our magazine is going to be. Over the last couple of weeks I have been doing this without overtly stating my intent. We have definitely made progress in a direction toward our goal. And most of you have very successfully participated in furthering that process. But, somehow, I have been wondering if I should more overtly state what the intention this class is. It is very well known to many people in my life that I often do not successfully make the case for my intentions explicitly clear. However, in the cases where I do attempt to state that intention, somehow it always ends up getting misconstrued.
So this is why I want to take the time to have this conversation with you. I have been noticing that there have been some confusions as to what my intentions are for all of you.
All of us in this class have this understanding, coming in, that our objective is to create this magazine that will be put into production. What I have tried to do is completely contradictory to other classes that I have conducted. In those cases, when I have given out specific assignments, I have provided with them given rules that needed to be followed. In those cases I do have certain expectations of what I want the students to produce. In all cases, I would have left those expectations open enough so that there are room for the students to create their own expectations of what the outcome of the assignments would be. What I kept noticing was that the students would end up needing more information about what they are expected to do. They want to be given examples to see how they can specifically execute those works.
In this class I began with a different approach. If you remember, I began the class by showing you some examples of different concepts of a magazine to get the conversations going. But from that moment on, I made it a point to leave open the final conception of the magazine to all of you.
I came across this poster not too long ago. A graphic designer created it to illustrate a quote from the British television show Doctor Who. It shows the two models of Time: What people’s conception of Time is (Fig. A), and what Time actually is (Fig. B).
This is how I want you to think about this. Think about how you see Time and how you see your life. Most people’s conception of their life follows a very linear trajectory. Our conception of our lives and our conception of Time are necessarily linear, because we are limited by a single viewpoint. We travel through life and everybody that comes into contact with us in that journey becomes actors along our Timeline. Everything exists in terms of Cause and Effect. In the linear view of Time—in the limitation of a single observer—something we do in the current moment (Cause) ends up having a repercussion in the future (Effect). In the linear viewpoint of time, we always exist in the Present.
However, in a more non-linear conception of Time, things happen simultaneously. Every being that exists in Space and Time simultaneously creates these Cause-and- Effects. Our actions and our lives are all entangled in this big cosmic soup in Time. It suggests that there are multiplicities in perspectives. That our relationship to the bigger picture is no longer so limited to one single viewpoint.
Those two things are presented in this graphic. The representations in this graphic also illustrate the dichotomy in the different ways of thinking. In Western cultures, a linear conception of Time neatly fits into the way that we think. It is ingrained into our philosophies and our doctrines. In opposition to it, there are cultures where a more circular way of thinking, or a more non-linear way of thinking, is the norm. This is the main reason why I always fall into miscommunications. I grew up and was influenced by a culture where the model of the way I think is closer to this (Fig. B), than it is to this (Fig. A). I constantly have to try to organize multiple thoughts that occur simultaneously in my head into a neat, single, linear explanation.
So where does this lead us to this whole idea of Intention and Expectation. I really do believe that the models presented in this graphic can easily be applied to these ideas.
I will begin this next part by saying that I am in no way attempting to convince you to believe in any single religious idea that I am about to present to you. I am merely using them as illustrations to further our discussion.
I grew up a Buddhist. I always say that I am a Buddhist. I say that mainly because it’s an easy label to give myself without really having to explain the plurality that makes up my own Spirituality or the way in which I live my life.
In Buddhism there is this idea of Nothingness. I was once told by a Buddhist monk that when you look at the world around you, the thing that you have to understand about this Reality is that when you follow Everything to its logical conclusion, what really exists is Nothing.
Let’s consider this for a second. Now, if you are a Christian—and you follow the Scriptures strictly—you know well the Creation story from Genesis. It begins with “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” From there you have the story of God’s Creation of Everything.
Have you ever ask yourselves this question—and I’m quite sure some of you have: What was there before the Beginning? If you ask your priest or pastor, they will say that obviously what was there before the Beginning was God.
But let’s follow this more logically.
What we know is that we currently have Everything. And before there was Something and Everything, you had a beginning point. If there is Something and Everything, then what was there before the Beginning? If we follow the logic that we have created for ourselves, then the answer is before there was Something and Everything, there was Nothing.
In this particular story of Creation, we can assume that in that Nothingness, the only thing that existed was God. But we have to ask ourselves what was really there with God? What was there with God that made him want to have Something and Everything from this Nothingness. The answer we are looking for is Intention.
Here’s another case that reflects this example: The Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is interesting in that it begins with a kind of Creation story. What is the first verse from the Gospel of John? It says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Again, what was there with God was Intention. John, then, quickly stated what that Intention was, and proceeded to tell the story of that Intention.
Intention to me seems to be more about this (Fig. B) than this (Fig. A). With an intention, you can end up having multiple possibilities. To me, it seems very open. God had that Intention, and it was going to lead to Everything. But if Intention can lead to anything and Everything, then which direction(s) should we travel to get ourselves to that place? That is why I feel that Intention is a little harder to grasp for a lot of us. And maybe a little scary. I think that is why the moment we understand what the Intention is, we quickly form Expectation to give ourselves a little guidance.
Think about your relationships: platonic, romantic, however you want to understand it. We all go into our relationships always with Intention. With that Intention we want Everything to happen. But think about how quickly we begin to place Expectation on those relationships. The relationship quickly moves from “I have the Intention to make Everything happen” to “This is my Expectation of this relationship.” From that moment on, everything that occurs in that relationship is either the thesis or antithesis of that Expectation.
Let’s think about this from the perspective of our relationship with our parents. We all know about this one very well. We know that all parents have the best intentions for their children. They all want their children to become Everything. All parents guide the journeys of their children along with that belief. Few, however, keep going with only Intention to guide them. Most, at some point, begin to place Expectation on those children.
The question is which path is easier to travel? You may say that you would like to travel the path of Intention, because you could become anything you want. But do you really think that living a life only based on Intention is an easy thing to do?
If your parents tell you that they have no Expectation of you, wouldn’t you somehow become at a lost? If you can live your life with no Expectation to speak of, it’s a little nerve-wrecking. It means you can become anything, and you can become Everything. That in and of itself is a little problematic if you don’t have a strong conception of yourself. If you don’t have any conception of who you are, then it’s a little difficult to have a good understanding of what that life could be. What you have to do now is to search for that conception on your own.
However, if you live your life based on Expectation, you know that all of your actions will either be in service of moving toward that Expectation, or a move away from that Expectation.
I don’t know if living your life based on Expectation is necessarily very easy at all. I have to acknowledge that it probably is as difficult as if you live your life only with Intention. Perhaps if your life leads toward following Expectation, and you are content with that life, then it would be easy. But if you live your life fighting Expectation, then it becomes incredibly frustrating.
I do feel though that most people believe it is easier if they live a life knowing what the expectations are. It’s fine to know the Intention, but if you know also what the Expectation of you will be, then it makes your job in figuring out your situation less difficult.
The reason why I haven’t solidly stated my Expectation of what the magazine would look like is because I don’t want you to follow my Expectation. I have been trying very hard to only state my Intention, and attempt to guide you along in the forming that Expectation. In the end, the Expectation of what this magazine will end up being should be all your own. I can definitely guide you along in your formation of that Expectation—and really that’s what I have been trying to do—but I want the process of that formation to be your own doing.
In the first class, I showed you some examples of what a magazine could be. We all have the Expectation of what a magazine should look like (Fig A). From the beginning, I have been trying to redirect you into thinking in different models (Fig. B)
In that first class, one of the things that was presented and talked about was this idea of the magazine being non-linear in form. That perhaps it is a conglomeration of different parts that is contained in some kind of package. And from that form, we can move beyond the constraints of a printed object to other platforms like the Internet.
While I do love that idea, some of you, however—and this is in no way a slight to anybody—became fixed on that concept. Last week, as I began to have you think more about the form of this magazine, I suggested that perhaps we could separate out certain parts of the magazine into little pamphlets that we can include with it. Again, some of you begin thinking only within those terms. If today, I give you another example, another solution to this problem, you might hold on to that conception as well.
What you are doing is you’re thinking based upon my Expectation. I want you to form your own Expectation of what the magazine would be. I am only giving you my Intention, and from that Intention I would like you to give me Something. Whatever that Something is I don’t want it to end up being my conception of it.
I want you to take the Intention (Fig. B), and form Expectation (Fig. A). Not my Expectation, but your own Expectation.