Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau

I'm reading a good book about physics at the moment: The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. I've been disappointed by some of the science books I've read lately, they seem to be rehashing the same old stuff. Greene is an elegant, even poetic, writer, not overly didactic. He is confident talking about literature and art as well as science. The book blossoms into a long open-ended exploration of what might be real. This ranges over - from a skim read of bits I haven't got to yet - string theory, the elusive Higgs boson, and the Higgs ocean (or Higgs Field) that might support it. Well worth a read if you like this sort of thing.

He starts with a discussion of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. Greene asks - does a commitment to understanding how the universe works, drain our emotional or spiritual enjoyment of the universe? A lot of people think it does.

I can remember when I was about 11 finding out about the way that plants work - the water sucking up from the roots, the basics of photosynthesis etc. The next time I was walking in the country I looked at a flower, and for a moment the diagrams I had drawn in class, and the intellectual model I had of the system, intruded between me and the plant. I can remember thinking 'Uh-oh, it's happening'. Because of course I had picked up by that age that art and science are supposed to be distinct from each other, that intellectual understanding is supposed to interfere with imagination and emotion.

But then of course the feeling faded, or rather the intellectual model of plant function, and the emotional pleasure of looking at the flowers became integrated. It only took a few moments, though I think it's a process that doesn't end.

But I am being an advocate here, rather than being open minded. I do have a strong opinion on this matter - that science and art are not opposed. I suppose it's pointless to pretend I'm neutral. My hero, William Blake, took the opposite point of view. But what about you? Do you find an opposition in your life between these two poles, and how do you deal with it?
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