Sunday, October 23, 2005

Curious about Impressions: How Important Are They? Part II

As I promised in my last blog, I am writing a Part II about impressions. After doing some research for Part I, I realized that there is much more to the subject of impressions than the first or second impression we make on others.

Impressions that fill our lives from what we are exposed to when we are young, when we are in school, when we choose our careers, when we read, when we see, when we listen, when we travel are incredibly important. They are the forces that help to form who we are and what we become.

I challenge us to think about those impressions that had the greatest influence on forming who we are today. I count myself as fortunate to have had parents who were concerned with exposing me to art, culture, reading, travel, the importance of education and a wide range of experiences.

In this same vein, this somewhat disturbing statement written by Alan Keyes is what took me away from thinking solely about first impressions, “When we, through our educational culture, through the media, through the entertainment culture, give our children the impression that human beings cannot control their passions, we are telling them, in effect, that human beings cannot be trusted with freedom.”

I could relate more easily to Robert Frost who wrote, “The chief reason for going to school is to get the impression fixed for life that there is a book side for everything.” Yes, I have always believed this with a passion - probably why I own hundreds of books.

Loving clothes and fashion, I was excited to find the following quotation by the talented designer, Donna Karan, “Today, fashion is really about sensuality - how a woman feels on the inside. In the eighties women used suits with exaggerated shoulders and waists to make a strong impression. Women are now more comfortable with themselves and their bodies - they no longer feel the need to hide behind their clothes.” This goes back to the question of “packaging” that we discussed in Part I. I wonder how many of us have hidden behind our clothes? I know that I have.

We are just starting to scratch the surface of the strength and importance of our impressions. My life has been filled with a variety of interests and careers. My first majors in college were Math and Physics, so the following quotations spoke loudly to me:
  • George Boole reminded me of one of my all time favorite math classes - non-Euclidean Geometry, “No matter how correct a mathematical theorem may appear to be, one ought never to be satisfied that there was not something imperfect about it until it also gives the impression of being beautiful.” Yes, it may be hard to believe, but the theorems we were proving were “beautiful.”
  • Jules H. Poincare provides the segue to my next area of impressions, “A scientist worthy of his name, about all a mathematician, experiences in his work the same impression as an artist; his pleasure is as great and of the same nature.”

When I returned to college, after many years, my new major was Studio Art. Here are some artists’ feelings and reactions to impressions:

  • I relate with fervor to this thought by Alfred Sisley, “I begin with the sky which can never be merely a background, the animation of the canvas, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of liveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist... .The artist's impression is the life-giving factor, and only this impression can free that of the spectator.”
  • And one of my favorite artists, Edward Hopper, wrote, “My aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impression of nature.”

As a writer, I found the following advice toward writing to be so true:

  • Nicholas Sparks suggests, “Above all, a query letter is a sales pitch and it is the single most important page an unpublished writer will ever write. It's the first impression and will either open the door or close it. It's that important, so don't mess it up. Mine took 17 drafts and two weeks to write.”
  • And Lynn Abbey just adds to Sparks’ suggestion, “Some of the best advice I can give an aspiring author is trivial. Most times an editor doesn't know you from a hole in the wall when he/she opens the envelope containing your story. That manuscript is your avatar-it stands for you and makes your first impression.” Ah, yes, back to first impressions.

With that, I hope that I have created a platform for discussion and thought. I will leave you with just one more great impression and thought-provoking quote from Don Hahn:

“We are meant to express how we feel about life. It's like breathing: Inhale the experiences of life, exhale how you feel about them. We are at our best when we can turn our impressions into expressions. The equation goes like this: Impression without expression equals depression.”