Posts Tagged 'Venn'

We Need to Vent: Holding Complexity and Shelach

We all know what a Venn diagram is, but what is a Vent diagram? A Venn diagram is a widely-used image style that shows the logical relation between sets, popularized by John Venn in the 1880s. While that was helpful in math class, that is not what is most interesting to me. A Vent diagram as an image of the overlap of two statements that appear to be true and appear to be contradictory. You do not label the overlapping middle.  This is a collaborative social media and art project started by educator Elana Eisen-Markowitz and artist Rachel Schragis, two queer white Jews in Brooklyn in our 30s.   

As they write on their website:

Making vent diagrams as a practice helps us recognize and reckon with contradictions and keep imagining and acting from the intersections and overlaps. Venting is an emotional release, an outlet for our anger, frustration, despair — and as a vent enables stale, suffocating air to flow out, it allows new fresh air to cycle in and through. We’re trying to make “vents” in both senses of the word: tiny windows for building unity and power, emotional releases of stale binary thinking in order to open up a trickle of fresh ideas and air.

Here are some vent diagrams about vent diagrams… or, vents that best describe what this project is and why we’re doing it:


I would encourage you to check out their sight for other examples. A good vent draws out a tension that we don’t have language for because that non-binary overlap isn’t really part of our public discourse yet.  

I was thinking about Vent diagrams this week while reading Shelach, this week’s Torah portion. There we learn that Moshe sends twelve spies to the land of Canaan. Forty days later they return, carrying a huge cluster of grapes, a pomegranate and a fig, to report on a lush and bountiful land. But ten of the spies warn that the inhabitants of the land are giants and warriors “more powerful than we”; only Caleb and Joshua insist that the land can be conquered, as God has commanded. Why did the spies give a bad report?

I think they needed to vent. These ten spies were not able to “recognize and reckon with contradictions”. Inspired by Elana Eisen-Markowitz and Rachel Schragis I made a Vent diagram for Shelach:


Like these ten spies many of us find ourselves navigating the complexity of two opposing truths. We all need to find a way to vent like Joshua and Caleb.


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