Title and Author: Ish by Peter Reynolds
Field of Philosophy: Aesthetics
Plot Summary: Ramon loves to draw and draws all the time. Then one day his older brother laughs at one of his drawings, and Ramon becomes preoccupied with making his drawings "look right." He draws and then crumples up what he’s created, and tries again. Finally Ramon decides to stop drawing. His younger sister picks up one of his crumpled drawings and Ramon follows her into her room to retrieve it, where he sees many of his abandoned drawings hanging on her walls. She points out a drawing of a vase of flowers, which she declares is one of her favorites. Ramon tells her that the drawing was supposed to be a vase of flowers, but he doesn't think it looks like one. "It looks vase-ISH!" she replies. A light goes on in Ramon’s head. Maybe his drawings don’t have to resemble the world exactly to be any good. Maybe what matters is that they express the way he sees the world. At the end of the book, one spring morning, Ramon has a “wonderful feeling.” He decides not to try to capture it in pictures or words. “Instead,” the book tells us, “he simply savored it. . . . And Ramon lived ishfully ever after.”
Some discussion questions:
Does art have to look like whatever it is expressing to be good?
What makes something art?
Are all our expressions of ourselves “art?” Can you think of any that aren’t art?
Why does Ramon decide not to capture his “wonderful feeling” in pictures or words?
Can some experiences be better if we appreciate the way the moment feels to us without trying to express it?
Is living “ishfully” something we should strive to do?
What would it mean to live life “ishfully?”