Monday, November 29, 2010

[Yasmin_discussions] Science, Technology, Art, POETRY

Paragraphs to Stimulate Discussion of Poetry and Science
from Jared Smith
November 21, 2010

I think that we can all start out with the assumption that anybody who
is reading Leonardo on a regular
basis or is participating in this YASMIN discussion already
understands at least intuitively that both the arts
and the sciences are related to pattern-thinking, as well as to a
striving to recognize within each newly
perceived or hard won pattern something which is larger or more
magnificent than anything which we have
ever perceived before. Each of us, whether scientist or artist,
rushes along one corridor or another of linear
thought which will propel us to a desired level of sensitivity to the
world about us or to a level of desired
control over that which we can control, and then suddenly those who
are luckiest among us find our linear
paths exploded by other linear paths that come from congruent angles
or by parallel awarenesses stemming
from perhaps sub-quantum foci that suddenly explode our past arguments
or awareness and carry us toward
even greater appreciations of what surrounds us and what we are
composed of. Wonderful discussions of
the parallels between creative thought in the arts and creative
thought in the sciences can be found in such
books as Arthur Kostler's Act of Creation, or in the proceedings of
Myron Color's Creative Science Seminar
series, or of course in the archives of any issue of Leonardo.

What determines the degree of value we place upon an insight or a
thought process that allows us to determine
whether it is art or science, then? That is harder to define.
Oppenheimer wrote and translated French
Romantic poetry: was that separate from his work with nuclear physics?
Coleridge and Shelley and Lord
Byron were Romantic poets, yet they shared in-depth intellectual
discussions with the leading scientists
of their day and published at times in the same small-circulation
journals bending their intellects on both
sides, artistic and scientific through both linear and nonlinear
junctions to such matters as what defines the
spark of life that animates men and is that spark if recreated by
scientific or technological means then the
same as life itself. (I refer you to Richard Holmes remarkable book
The Age of Wonder.) Were these the
same questions that reverberated through the marble sculptures and the
earthen tones of paint that Michelangelo
wove his visions around, and with which he illustrated a vision of
touch and singularity that arises from a man's
extended finger and the hand of that which is greater than he? Do any
of these things that we think of in our
deeper moments, that we quest for, have any discernible value to
define them as arts or sciences separate from
each other when measured in the scope of our existence—or do we
merely severely limit ourselves by defining
them as first one and then another? If T.S. Eliot was right in his
determination and definition of an "objective
correlative" in art or in poetry as being a series of images which
when read by any careful reader (any scientist
who is trained in the art?) will produce within that reader only one
vision or understanding which is the same in
each person who reads it thusly, cannot one say that the words of a
poet must be wielded with as much care
and knowledge and skill as the mathematics of quantum physics scrawled
out in hard earned bursts of joy on
university blackboards. Are not the visions brought by the words of
one poet to a select and educated few as
dramatic in their meaning and intent, and as decisive in their
creation, as that of a director at CERN to a
similarly well educated and small, select group? Can those two
groups overlap, and is there value in that?

Well, yes, perhaps, you might say so, if we could only know which poet
or which artist were wielding the right vision
and sharpening with the right tools or words. But how could we know?
Who could verify? This is important
because as we all know in science and with regard to technology, when
we mix ingredients or procedures together
while controlling all variables, we will always get the same action
and reaction, the same objective correlative.
And that action and reaction may have value, or they may not. And if
they do have value, it may take many
decades or even hundreds of years to determine what that value is and
whether it lies within the intellectual or
material realm. We have a great many institutions of learning which
turn out a great many men and women
of considerable intellect who are trained to study each scientific
theorem as it evolves and to place it within
other theorems for greater substance and meaning. At times, this
study and evolving is a time-curdling
process where the mind grows infinitely older and achieves little; but
at times, it can take flight in new and
unexpected colonies of bacilli blossoming into definable space on a
petri dish, taking shape as a poem
from the small things we know about the expanding world around us.
Call it art. Call it nonlinear spontaneity.
And when it sings in the back rooms of our minds, when it speaks in a
language that reverberates not only
with our higher brain functions but also within the reptile brain we
have so little understanding of, when it
creates a song that we know is worth listening to in the quietness of
our non-salaried time, and makes us
feel alive as individuals in ways we cannot explain with out
mathematical formulas or our surface linguistics,
let's call it poetry with the honor it so deserves. Poetry at its
best is the only art that combines linear thought
with musical rhythms and meter to produce an exacting language that
transcends the speech of our time.

--Jared Smith, 11/21/10

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