Weekly Photo Challenge: The Search for Symmetry

It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.–Henri Poincare

This week, Cheri at Word Press challenges us to visualize symmetry.   As human beings, we crave order over chaos.  Our eyes search for and delight in symmetry.  We look for patterns and sometimes we invent new ones.  This defines us as human beings and frames our existence.

Let’s take dance, for example.  Isn’t it the joyful repetition of steps and body movements in established patterns?  Here’s a shot I took this summer during the Hispanic Dance Festival in Chicago.

I was in love with anatomy
the symmetry of my body
poised for flight,
the heights it would take
over parents, lovers, a keen
riding over truth and detail.
Catherine Anderson

4 Dancers at the Hispanic Dance Festival, Chicago, IL

4 Dancers at the Hispanic Dance Festival, Chicago, IL

Symmetry is an integral part of how we see the world.   We organize it, divide it into categories, and then seek to find balance between them:  male and female, good and evil, rich and poor, birth and death.

In the photo below, you can see the sad symmetry of the tombstones at Normandy Beach, which we visited in 2003.

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.― Shannon L. Alder

Memorial at Normandy Beach, France

The World War II Memorial at Normandy Beach, France, 2003

We seek repetition and symmetry in our architecture as well.  For example, on a recent trip to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., I took the usual shots of that amazingly huge statue of Lincoln and then decided to look up.   In the photo below, you can see the repetition of motifs in the ceiling:

The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree.”  Aristotle

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.  Shot with a Canon 40D

I’d also like to share with you a brilliant short video created by filmmakers Will Hoffman, Daniel Mercadante, and Julius Metoyer III.  In it, they explore how “symmetry shapes our very existence–from the origins of the universe, to what we see when we look in the mirror.”   I guarantee that you won’t be able to watch it just once!

If you’d like to see more of their work, take a look at their first conceptual video based on a RadioLab episode called “Words.”

And listen to them in the RadioLab episode, Desperately Seeking Symmetry.

To see some terrific interpretations of this week’s theme by my Word Press friends, click on the links below:

16 replies »

  1. Hi Maria. Thanks so much! Life is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? And still we struggle to find reason and order amidst chaos. As always, I appreciate your thoughts! Have a great week. –Patti


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