“You mentioned in the comment section of a recent post that ‘I’d argue that what is often missing is not a belief in science as much as a belief in art. That is, we don’t lean into art as a means to internal or external resolution (of issues, anxiety, discontent, burnout, whatever).’ This stood out to me as a significant observation and it’s been staying with me since I read it. A couple of questions: What do you mean by ‘belief in art,’ and why is that more important than belief in science’? And further, what exactly is involved in ‘leaning into art’ as you see it?“
Leaning into art starts by prioritizing our natural aesthetic sensibilities, consciously applying a fuller spectrum of our senses and perceptive capabilities that the rational mind alone cannot do. Art of all kinds – framed and formal or spontaneous and even unintended – provokes and alights imagination, emotion and intuition, from which we can then tap into a grander reservoir so as to guide how we think, feel and act.
Leaning in is the act of meeting the artist in her or his intent. Oftentimes, we don’t receive an exceptional impact from art only because we didn’t lean far enough into it, didn’t get close enough to it, to find that.
I think in general we don’t believe enough in the value and potential of art to look toward it as a means of resolving issues we struggle with, as if it’s an addendum or divertissement. Like it’s not going to help with the pressing concerns that matter to us or fix our back problem or relational issues (when in fact, it very well might). We look for answers within the same framework as our questions, not realizing that solutions are most often going to come from outside of that framework. And often not in the form of rational information as much as a different way of perceiving the variables in play, a surprise.
We probably can’t just choose to surprise ourselves, but we can choose to lean into the opportunities that present themselves to us each day. Simple, basic choices that are forms of leaning into art: When someone sends you a piece of music or video, don’t immediately listen and watch, but actually pause and go get some headphones so you can pick up the subtle details; when someone sends you a quote or poem that they probably consider to be significant, take the time to read it carefully, perhaps memorize it and recite it; when you’re intrigued by some artistry, however apparently inconsequential, don’t just run off to the next thing but linger, relax your eyes and jaw, and let it seep in through the walls of impatience or analysis; when you’re out walking, consciously turn off circular thoughts by breathing more expansively and openly noticing the environment you’re in through as many senses as you can.
It’s popular these days to call the above examples forms of mindfulness, but I personally don’t see it that way. It’s more the conscientious craftsmanship of a pocket of time to get to mind-emptiness – getting out of one’s head so as to experience more completely all the forms of beauty that organically call to us, whether those are man-made or nature-made. The mindfulness of that is remembering to get the headphones and make the space and time so that you can then forget everything by immersing into the music, like a child does.
Which leads me to your question: “Why is that more important than belief in science?”…
Science is, in many ways, the attempt to make sense of art. Historically, we came upon art as expression so as to gather and “capture” something mysterious, something compelling enough to warrant an attempt to reproduce it and keep it closer more consistently. Science in that process was largely about how to go about that: what tools and processes were needed to paint a cave wall, to conceive and construct instruments that made irrationally enticing sounds, to illuminate the interior of a sacred structure with colored light, to form wood, clay or stone into a recognizable representation of what was originally powerfully significant. It is through science that we are able to travel in a car or plane, to communicate through a phone or computer, to live long and prosper, to sit on a chair with the appropriate light and heat and freedom to take on a worthy endeavor. But the endeavor itself is in the direction that art points to. Science facilitates that endeavor.
I’d contend that the greatest scientists of all time, who certainly merit our attention in considering their methods that led to great surprises from which we continue to benefit – including Einstein, Curie, Galileo, Newton, Copernicus, da Vinci – at some point realized that they were no longer looking at science but were looking at the details of divine art.
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world,” ~ Albert Einstein.
“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child…The older one gets, the more one feels that the present moment must be enjoyed, comparable to a state of grace.” ~ Marie Curie
“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
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