The Lost Artist

As children, everyone always tries to teach us that science and art are incompatible. They dissuade us from pursuing both as interests, while repeating mantras about left-brain and right-brain. Science is supposed to be rigid and rigourous, without room for extraneous flamboyancies or fanciful thinking. Art, on the other hand, is all about creation, freedom of expression and not to be bound by such boring constraints. This leads to the despicably famous assertion that science takes the beauty out of things.

Artists and scientists analyse the world around them in surprisingly similar ways –
by observing, collecting, documenting, analysing and comparing.

– Keri Smith,
How to be an Explorer of the World

Science taking the beauty out of things? Any long time readers of mine will know that I personally believe this to be absolute nonsense. But all the same, the question that’s been rolling around my head recently is exactly how great the overlap is — or, more to the point, how great it should be. As I say this, I’m concurrently doing two things. As I try to organise over three years of research, calculations, and knowledge into page after page of technical writing, I’ve also been collating my artistic portfolio in hopes I can fund myself as I finish this, with some freelance graphic design work. I suppose, in some ways, this makes me the definition of the overlap which so many people find so jarring. But why do they find it so? After all, the two things aren’t all that disparate.

In fact, one of the Jungian archetypes is the artist-scientist. Yes, the artist-scientist. No distinction. In this archetype, the same mindset governs both. Actually, I particularly like the explanation given by the wikipedia article for this one;

While never as common as archetypes like the child or the Hero, the artist-scientist is immediately recognizable. They are a builder, an inventor, a seeker, a dreamer, and a thinker. Distracted by their own thoughts, they frequently have to be pulled in out of the rain. They are simultaneously vastly knowledgeable and yet innocent, impulsive yet cautious. They represent the wonder to be found in curiosity, and the dangers.

It’s true, after all. True artists and scientists are both creators and discoverers. We’re all tasked with the self-imposed quest to understand the world around us, and somehow make sense of it. Whether you’re toying with perception and feelings which can be invoked, or investigating the properties of matter and the cosmos, it’s a quest we all share.

All great scientists have, in a certain sense, been great artists;
the man with no imagination may collect facts, but he cannot make great discoveries.

– Karl Pearson

If I’m to be perfectly candid, I’m often struck, overwhelmed even, with the question of how exactly I’m going to do something. The logical part of my mind understands that tasks and problems aren’t insurmountable, but the emotional side has difficulty coping sometimes. The ever increasing list of circumstances and burdens can seem forbiding and overbearing. Not insurmountably so, but nonetheless if I’m to be detached and self-analytical, this explains difficulties I’ve had recently. Difficulties such as a few weeks of writers block.

The most interesting thing is that the writers block lifted once I allowed myself to relax those constraints I was under. Perhaps the key to all of this is to maintain a healthy balance. Perhaps the most important course of action is to make sure I keep thinking in both of these ways. I like to try and keep balance in my life, and my scales have been tipped too far to one side for too long. Restricting me. Pinning my wings. Holding me down. The freedom to write here about things other than “a different distribution in the charge, with the negative charge being carried by a σ-orbital as a lone pair, forming a carbanion”, for instance, is… Well frankly, it’s liberating. I love writing. I always have. I don’t enjoy feeling like it’s a cage though.

A lot of things have been getting to me. I need to snap out of it. I resolve to stop neglecting my lost artist self. I need to maintain space in my life for artistic thinking. Ultimately, without it, my scientific thinking is dilute and enfeebled.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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