Just Some Encouragement

Do you ever look back and wish you could do something over? The decision to date that person in high school, perhaps? That thing you blurted out because you were way too tired that irreperably damaged a friendship? Perhaps it’s something bigger, like your major in college, or the career path you feel locked into now. At the end of the day, despite a veiled claim by an ex-girlfriend, I think that everyone regrets something.

Initially, I’d say that I regret the story arc more than individual plot points. That is, I wish I had held a fundamentally different perception of my compass heading. The reason for this is that I was constantly moving from one box of a compartmentalized life to another for years, working from the starting point that I had to choose one and stay with it if I ever wanted to be anything when I grew up. Thus, I just tasted everything on the buffet, thinking that doing so was part of a decision to choose my permanent entree. This mindset began toward the end of my college career, when I was pressured by well-meaning loved ones to exit stage left from the production of trying different things and decide on something that would earn a living. Thus, the compartmentalization began.

Only shortly before I began grad school did I experience my first inkling that life is more holistic than that. I think that wrestling through that was a huge part of my graduate studies, one that informed my research, and for which I am so much better off now. You might even call me more enlightened. In any case, I feel as though I’m emerging from the other end, and recognizing that a holistic worldview leads to an interdisciplinary academic pursuit. And I can’t even describe the freedom that comes when you stop trying to decide which one of your million interests you want to nail yourself down to pursue, and realize that they are all just different ways in which to see the others, different ways to overlap and illumine each other.

I know, I know, I’ve written about this (too) exhaustively here, but I’m a firm believer. So go pick up those extra interests you’ve always wanted to devote more time to, recognize that a job is just a job and maybe, just maybe, careers are illusions. In fact, try something new, just for the fun of it. Don’t even lock yourself into one type of pursuit (science or art, right-brained or left-brained). Exercise the muscles on the other side. You may discover yourself to be like me, and completely mathematically clueless. Or, you might discover that you’re the next Renaissance man or woman.

Give something a try! And I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Outside the Box…Again

The onset of Spring in the American Southeast brings about phenomenal amounts of pollen and allergens to which my system has an extremely adverse reaction. That reaction began Thursday night and reached an apex by Sunday morning, at which point I was sleeping only with the assistance of symptom reliever and way too sick to leave the apartment. That being the case, the only logical thing to do was to engage in the equivalent of what Saturday morning cartoons used to be. I logged into Netflix, browsed the animated streaming options, and settled on Batman vs. Dracula.

Once again, I’ll wait until you’re finished laughing.

Long time readers here will find it no surprise that I find inspiration in the mythology of Batman. When I need a writing exercise to get my creative juices flowing, I have been known to engage in writing my own adventures for the Dark Night Detective (good luck with me ever getting those published). In this  movie, Batman relies on science and chemistry to defeat the king of vampires. One of the characters in the movie even comments on how Bruce Wayne’s desire to save the world through his science and charitable foundations is of no surprise. A sort of triumph of man’s ingenuity over supernatural evil; we have the brains, and with them, we can overcome anything that rises against us.

After the movie finished, I was amused a bit at how a very well-animated artistic venture lauded scientific achievement so much, when the two of them seem so diametrically opposed.

Except they’re really not. I recently read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Artist of the Beautiful, a short story in which the protagonist creates a piece of art that is nearly indescribable in both its beauty and its fragility. The protagonist is a watchmaker, and has built his artistic creation through scientific and mechanical means. There’s an unmistakeable message in the story about forgoing beauty and creativity in favor of the mechanical and utilitarian, and yet the artist creates using scientific and mechanical craftsmanship.

The time period in which Hawthorne wrote this piece was prior to science coming into its own as the discipline we know it to be. Natural philosophy was dominant at that time, and the artificial compartmentalization of disciplines had not really come into its own yet. Science, philosophy, and art were all seen as equals, and rightly so, because all involve elements of the other at some level.

My background in theatre began largely as a designer and technician. As such, my mathematics deficiencies always left me with extra hurdles to overcome in my designs, because, while I grasp technology intuitively, there is a scientific component, not to mention a mathematical component, to the lighting and sound and scenic design processes of theatre. Likewise, graphic designers and animators (like those who animated the Batman adventure I watched this morning, I’m sure) utilize both of these in their work, as do many other creative professionals and artists.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were less confined by arbitrary boxes of this-or-that specialization, or even this-or-that field? If specific degrees were no longer required to be considered proficient in certain areas, or even if we recognized what valuable contributions individuals with educational backgrounds outside of their fields could bring? If we appreciated the craftsmanship that is involved in artistry, and vice versa?

In short, if we just stopped defining things so narrowly. Doing so inhibits many from succeeding…or at least makes is substantially more difficult for them to do so.

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