objective to subjective

These are blueberry bushes growing along my shore. If you look closely, you might be able to see the white blooms. Right now, promise of fruit: objective truth. When and if the fruit comes – yum! – subjective enjoyment.

I just returned from a wildly fun trip to DC for my daughter Ariella’s graduation (yay!) from Georgetown University’s Masters in the Science of Foreign Service program. Not only was it delightful to meet her many friends and colleagues, but it was also insightful. I loved that there were 60 countries represented among the 95 students in the ceremony. And I also loved hearing the speeches.

What particularly intrigued me in Izuma Nakamitsu’s speech was the path she carved out in her career in the UN. I may not remember the sequence accurately or completely, but here’s what I recall: she served in the crisis in Bosnia in a humanitarian capacity, she then became high commissioner for refugees, which followed by a role in peacekeeping operations and now she serves as Under Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. I could see how she has dealt with a challenging and changing reality and how one way of dealing with issues then led to the next. She conveyed how she would move on to each, hopefully more effective, way of dealing with the issues that arrose. I was fascinated to hear about the progression of her thoughts; I understood it to be an ongoing creative response on her part. I appreciated what I saw as the artistry in her work.

In the book I’m reading, “Matisse in the Studio”. there is also this attention to the development, over time, of responding to challenges, but in the realm of art. Jack Flam discusses Matisse’s lifelong concern: “the eternal question of the objective and the subjective.” Finding the right balance between verisimilitude and reinvention. Just isolating that one concern in Matisse’s work, I have more pronounced appreciation for the shifts in his art through the years: from his academically accurate early work, to the looser art of his middle career – informed by influences from Africa and Asia – and finally to the free form paper cut out and painterly work of his later years.

Working with the world out there. Responding to it in one way. Contributing to it in another. Day in and day out, shifting. The way it all weaves together. That blueberry bush, that UN envoy, that artist, all taking the objective and making it subjective.

So individual and so much part of the whole.