Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The art and science of our lives

In a recent edition of his always-thought-provoking blog Random Riffs, Brian Hayman asked, "Would you rather think of your life as a work of art or a science project?"

I have never considered that question, have you?

It seems to me that if our lives are works of art, then we are the artists, deliberately adding a colour here, a line there, editing out portions that no longer feel right, changing perspective and, if we are fortunate, breaking through to a new realization of ourselves.

But our lives also have some of the attributes of a science project --- investigation, experimentation, testing, failing, acquiring new knowledge, creating new hypotheses that spark new experiments.

And there is yet another dimension --- that of an engineering project, and here we are primarily the objects of others' work --- parents, teachers, clergymen, politicians, bosses, each of whom have an ideal end product in mind, a blueprint, and exercise their influence to shape us into that.

It seems to me that our lives begin as engineering projects. We are empty vessels for usually-well-intentioned authority figures who fill our brains with their beliefs and knowledge.

Then the science project begins, if we are so inclined. We test those beliefs and that knowledge, finding both imperfect, modifying and replacing them with the results of our own experience and learning.

Art arrives only with maturity, if at all. Art requires courage. Art involves going against social prescriptions, finding our true selves, putting that on the canvas of our lives, and displaying it to the world, without apology.

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