About East Meets West    

 

THE NOTION OF EAST and WEST

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

   Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

    But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

    When two strong men stand face to face, though they come

        from the ends of the earth!


                Rudyard Kipling, The Ballad of East and West, 1889.


The East-West divide between Europe and America, and the countries of Asia and northern Africa is an old and pervasive idea, but it is also a changeable, elusive way to order our ideas of the world. It has geographical and psychological implications.  It affects how we see ourselves and others.  It has shaped our social, philosophical, and aesthetic preferences for millennia -- what we like and don’t like--as well as what intrigues us about what we think we know.

Various mental maps of the East-West divide have lodged themselves into our minds and the minds of political and spiritual leaders, cultural groups, scholars, social scientists, historians, artists, politicians, and economists. Today the divide is often a flashpoint that comes into sharper focus and controversy when some faction uses the idea to defend or promote their own theory or ideology, or to expand on or draw up new ideological or territorial boundaries.  The notion of an East/West divide has becomes a more complex and relevant issue with recent conflicts and increasing globalization.  We can learn other sides of the story by examining the cultural interactions, arts, and transformations of understanding that have come about when people interact and collaborate in terms of arts and ideas.


Alternative traditions/perspectives offer autonomy, choice, and the gift of the imagination: inventive solutions, flexibility in the face of change . . . . East meets West is in the alternative tradition. ”  


                      
Patrick Smith, Somebody Else’s Century: East and West in a  
                             Post-Modern World
, 2010.

              

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)                              Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)


The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, 1831.                      The Starry Night, June 1889

~ 10 x 15 inches.  Color woodcut.                               29 x 36-1/4 inches. Oil on canvas

Collection: Hakone Museum, Japan                    Mus. of Modern Art, New York