A Bowl of Fruit: A Lesson in Inference

I want you to imagine a bowl of fruit. No doubt you have already glanced at a picture, a painting, or an actual bowl of fruit before. Close your eyes and imagine the bananas, the apples, the grapes, the oranges. All the vivid colors held within a plain bowl set atop a sturdy table.

Why would someone take the time and trouble to encapsulate a bowl of fruit? What does it mean? What is its purpose? What is the artist’s intent? All of these questions have purely subjective answers that we each could come up with a million possible ideas of what we each think it means.

On the other hand, when is a bowl of fruit just a bowl of fruit?

This is probably one of my favorite lessons that I remember from school. It was intended to be a lesson to demonstrate how art can mean different things to different people. This was especially useful given that it was band class. The lesson aided the students by developing a shared understanding that interpretations of music can be vastly different on an individual level. That understanding however helped shape a better consensus within the class and allowed us to make better progress on the musical arrangement we were working on.

I took away something a bit more from the lesson. At the end of the discussion, the teacher ended with: “Sometimes a bowl of fruit is just a bowl of fruit.” I have used that term a lot since then and it has taken on its own meaning for me.

Often we make an inference when we do not possess the full picture, only that which is presented before us. With all of the New Age, hippy, mumbo jumbo floating around and the search for the deeper meaning of things we often infer too much. We totally skip Ockham’s Razor and try grasping at shadows that may or may not actually be there. With everything that goes on in life, we are often peeved at the fact that sometimes the answer is simply boring or uninteresting.

While it is uncommon, sometimes things are exactly as they are without any hidden intent. Sometimes a bowl of fruit is just a bowl of fruit…




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