In Search of Meaning (32): Perfection is the a-ha moment

WHAT DO SCIENTISTS, JOURNALISTS, and artists have in common?

Relentless pursuit.

Artists are in pursuit of beauty.

Journalists (the honest ones, anyway), of truth.

And scientists, of both.


Making sense where there is none

WE EACH WANT TO ARRIVE at the truth of a thing. To make sense of the complexity of the world surrounding us.

To dissect, to question, to pursue and—with any luck—to gain privilege to some kind of understanding.

Art. Artist friends revel in the process of creating. Sometimes there’s a point where you think a piece is finished and then a single, unplanned movement determines a totally new direction.

It is a dance, it is a performance. But the audience and players are selfsame: they are you. Intuition is a guide. Clarity of vision is paramount.

The result can be brilliance: if you’ve stood at the foot of Michelangelo’s David when his crowd wanes and fades, you know exactly what I mean.

Journalism. Lately I’ve been revisiting some of Malcolm Gladwell’s writings. I saw Gladwell speak while touring with Outliers.

I didn’t realize his father was a mathematician, and the inner jacket copy for What the Dog Saw says Gladwell’s is ‘an investigator of the hidden extraordinary.’

I’m no Gladwell, but I was a staff reporter—first for the [DELETED] in southwest Ireland, then at the [DELETED].

In these jobs, I was always looking for the glint of something beautiful and, more importantly, true. If I could illuminate the truth in a thing through a story, I considered it a personal success.

Science. Scientists amaze me. They like to make tables and box their answers. This process of setting up a hypothesis, inventing methods to test it, and evaluating results to arrive at a conclusion reminds me of one of my classes in civil engineering at N.C. State: concrete.

When engineers build roads, they rely on charts and tables. They put in factors of safety. They don’t have any exact solution, but they apply what others have observed and tabulated to be true, and assured it will work the same way tomorrow. It’s inexact. It’s flawed.

But it works, at least enough of the time that we don’t question it or try to invent new methods. Kind of like Euclidean geometry.

Scientists and lovers of science are a curious lot.

That’s why I loved being surrounded by some 250 science enthusiasts last weekend at a conference smack in the middle of Research Triangle Park called Science Online.

For now, I’m still jazzed by the simplicity of the insight.

The a-ha moment

ARTISTS, JOURNALISTS, AND SCIENTISTS are each looking for something.

We mince uncertainty. We peel the superficial layers.

We want to “see” the internal workings of a thing, a process, or a condition of existence.

In other words, we seek—it is our work, our compulsion and even our obsession. Our hands and minds carry us to do the work that we simply cannot not do.

To quest.

Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist style.

Seeking discoveries and brilliant moments along the way.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty / That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. —John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

Published in S. P. A. C. E.
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