E = mc2? This month is the 136th anniversary of Einstein’s birth and his theory of gravity waves just got proved and made worldwide headlines! One awesome dude. What could an Artist learn from a Scientist?
It took me a long time to trust to call myself an artist… I felt safer using that label after experiencing some successes, but, mostly on good days. There are other days when my spirits are damped down, I have a less positive view of myself. I can’t get my words to flow. I become sure I am really a train-wreck that occasionally fools people — and myself. When my internal weather gets, “cloudy” I don’t have the courage to make those hard, cold phone-calls to hawk my wares. I doubt my future.
It happens. I have danced with the blues throughout my life. And not the musical kind. I think it comes with gift of insight; the poignant, inner knowledge that comes with a mind that wants to navigate the human condition. The more imaginative you are, I think the more likely you are also to occasionally touch the dark spaces of doubt and fear. It is the cost of being a poet.
How does one escape from these negative waters? I don’t think you can. I feel that to wish them away is to fall into the trap of believing others don’t have doubts, fears, obstacles.
My theory is that we have to embrace these darker times. They are a badge of honor for thinking outside the box. They are the cost of staking your ego on new discoveries – ones not recognized by others, and sometimes ourselves… yet. It really helps to know that other writers hit these icebergs too – hey, it’s collegial. You belong to a unique club of wonder-thinkers. Welcome aboard.
But my goal here is not to revel in the problematic, it is to lift our view a little higher. I wanted to share some thoughts that might break you out of the closed loop if you do get down on yourself. Maybe give you a fresh perspective? Actually, a lot higher.
I noted that the Hubble Telescope has now proved that there are more than 200 BILLION galaxies in our universe. There are more stars in our universe than there are grains of sand on every beach on Earth. Does that put our troubles in perspective?
A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe,” limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons close to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all humanity and the whole of nature in its beauty. -Albert Einstein
I am very attracted to Albert, an unlikely success. The ultimate out of the box thinker, he was so slow in learning to talk, it took him until he was five. The family maid called him “the dopey one”. He couldn’t tie his shoe laces until he was nine (some say he never really figured that out). But he did grow to become regarded as a humorous anti–authoritarian. The ultimate Nobel prize winning physicist. And, by me, as a fairly wonderful philosopher. I left school at fifteen and take great pleasure in Einstein’s quote:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” -Einstein
You mean when I am sitting for hours at my computer and only puttering out a few piddling words – I am still more potent than knowledge? How about this from Uncle Al, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” That’s a useful thought for us writers when we are in a black mood from being “blocked”. And this, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Even scientists do re-writes!
The man who discovered the theory that changed almost everything, also said “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” Yep, we can also judge that Al’s “naughty bits” were assembled right, and that he is not so removed from ourselves.
Perhaps what touches me most about old Albert was, as TIME magazine states, he believed the foundation of life was rising above the “merely personal” to live in a way that benefited humanity. He dedicated himself to the cause of world peace and – after encouraging the U.S. to build the atom bomb to defeat Hitler – he worked diligently to find ways to control such weapons. He raised money to help fellow refugees, spoke out for racial justice and publicly stood up for those who were victims of McCarthyism. And he tried to live with a humor, humility, simplicity and geniality even as he became one of the most famous faces on the planet.
“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.” -Einstein
Mankind is experiencing a tsunami of change. From the internet’s instant global reach and (often intrusive) massive information depth, to quantum physics delving into realms of nature which suggest things like parallel universes that seem almost beyond the rational. We have unraveled our DNA, the recipe for life, and are tinkering up our own Franken-creations. And humanity is still struggling to learn how to exist with weapons that are beyond horror in their potency.
With all this rush of the new and the change that it forces on us, our species needs and yearns for a sense of guidance and purpose. What atheist would deny that morality is useful? Few in any religion would fail to employ the good sides of science to benefit them and their families.
Yet this change comes at a speed that makes learning how to integrate its spiritual and human impact very difficult. So we as creators have the shaman like option to share our perceptions. To create the new myths – the living stories that Joseph Campbell celebrated and felt were so vital to our personal, cultural and spiritual growth as a species.
Every film and TV story is an opportunity to contribute to the inner galaxy of human moral and spiritual knowledge. Whether they are dark, cautionary tales like horror movies or life-affirming love stories – each teaches us from the dual perspective of our inevitable biology embedding the currents of today’s existence. And no one knows which stories are going to stick to the future.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” -Einstein
So how much pain is it worth to participate in the great stream of storytelling and myth creating? How many bad days? How much self-doubt? It might be easier to bear if you see yourself as a participant in the giant adventure of mankind. It is tad more for me… today. Okay, Pen. Get back to that damn half-finished script!