Let's have an example.
I signed up for college. I knew this was gong to be a very long and difficult trek. I am not particularly academic. I'm lazy and I don't like to study. Either I get it right off by paying attention to somebody who is interesting, or I don't.
Very early, a science 101 was required. Best to get that out of the way right off. I picked up the book for Biology and tried to read it. Every word was beyond me. I realized on the spot, reading the first pages, I would have to learn an entire new language. I was dismayed. I pictured the whole task ahead being this way. I sat down in despair and nearly cried. I'm too stupid. I'm not up to this. It is not my cup of tea. I don't care for all these incredibly specific scientific words. They bother me greatly.
Words, words, words, words words, Jesus Christ, people you are obsessed with in-club vocabulary. Fine. I'll master your buzzwords and toss them back to you. That will be my way of convincing you I've mastered your material, then allow myself to forget them for their utter uselessness. Useless to real understanding.
I'm an artist goddamnit. And you're not.
I copped a very bad attitude right off.
The key to the class is understanding cell division. The textbook is loaded with words identifying phases. Then phases within phases, and names for the bits doing separate things within phases, activated by bits with other names. Lordy, they do love naming things. And naming them the most difficult erudite manner possible. They contrive a name drawn from another ancient language for every tiny little bit, every activity, every phase with phases. Son of bitch this is going to be hard.
And to explain what they discovered through microphotography, their photographic evidence of phases, they have an artist draw pictures of all that they're explaining and put each separate phase inside a circle. Like this, from wikipedia, but there are several other versions:
click, it gets bigger. Eh, don't bother.
The next page in the textbook was microphotographs of all this happening. The photographs did not match the drawings! I flipped back and forth trying to see how they match, and they simply do not match.
And I realized they just made all this shit up! They've contrived their own vocabulary to explain what they think they are seeing and so they can have the means to discuss it.
While in reality cell division is not divided into karyokinesis further divided into prophase, pro metaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase and the ending cytokinesis does not overlap with the first. The photographs didn't match because they were taken between all these phases. It's why I couldn't make sense of them. They don't fit because the process is not broken down into distinct bits, just because the activity is noted. It's a process. A single continuous process that runs smoothly. It cannot be separated by frames. It's most clearly described as a miracle. It's art! This is Nature's art. And professors have divided the art, the miracle of life, into phases and given them scientific names. They've reduced the stupefying jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring miracle of life, Nature's art, into lowly scientific terms of superficial surface comprehension.
Nobody ever mentioned a miracle. There is no mention of art. And this process is stunningly beautiful.
Fine. This is all on your stupid terms. Yes, I copped a very bad attitude very early on. Going to college is going to make me a whole lot dumber. But to pass, I must accept and learn their stultifying ways. Now how am I going to learn these meaningless words? I saw the micrographs. I grasped the miracle. I'll flip back and I decide to study their drawing. So I did.
I drew circles on a page and filled the circles as they drew them. Different than wikipedia has them. I wrote all the words and drew a line to the object of attention and marveled again at the process occurring knowing full well it runs smoothly from one circle to another, there must be 1,000 circles between each circle they're showing. But without any names because they land in between phases of scientific discussion. There are actually a million intermediate phases unnamed. That is the real Nature's art.
This is how I chose to study the subject, by concentrating on their key bit of textbook art. And right at that moment Meyer walked behind me and asked me, "What are you doing?"
"I'm studying my biology class."
"Looks to me like you're goofing around drawing pictures."
I stopped. Hurt. Hey, I'm a sensitive bloke you must know. Why take a jab at me? I respected his opinion highly. He really is very smart. He's smarter than I am. Older. Far more accomplished. I have a lot I can learn from him. I admire him. I respect his opinion. Why did he say that? Is it true? Am I just trying to get out of studying?
Bullshit. This is how I study. Go to hell you unartistic dope. Fuck off and leave me alone.
Man, I copped a bad attitude.
I went to the final exam uncertain of myself because my entire study amounted to comprehending the nature of the microphotographs that did not match the artist's rendition. The only vocabulary I bothered mastering were the words on that single page.
The final exam was passed out to all the students who hadn't already dropped out, a half full theater. The exam amounted to a a single page filled with 12 blank circles. The single question was: "Choose either mitosis or meiosis (the sex cell version ) and fill in the circles.
I got this!
Oh, Baby, I so got this. Here comes my "A."
I drew happily. All I had to do was recall what I already drew. The words are all pfft.
Also, PSYCH! There are not 12 circles. Only ten in the textbook. Naner naner, the professor is faking us out. She drew two extra circles to confuse. The professor is a very mean woman. A motorcycle dyke, actually. My type of gal. I can understand a woman like that. We'd be friends were it not a class.
I look around the theater. All the other students were completely bewildered. None were prepared for this. They were stumped. All of them were. It was a very large class and every student in there was positively stumped. They were angry. It was unfair to them. They became very bitter about the unfair challenge. And this is the final. A very important grade. They're all thinking they should have dropped out. All along there was nothing about drawing anything. They did not sign up for art class and now they are asked to draw. They cannot do it. None of them can.
La la la.
Silly me. Fuck you, Meyer. I get an "A" in a class that I'm unfit for. I win.
That was one of the very first classes in college. And I knew an artistic approach will see me through all of it. Because in our totality there is no real separation between STEM and the arts. I understood this very young.
So there's that.
I am alone in this estimation. Nobody agrees with me. I realize that. Professors whom I respect greatly will argue this to the ground and bury it deeply. STEM scientific and legal types will disagree strongly. Their conceit depends on their vast separation. Arts are for people not smart enough for science. Arts are for lazy people.
Now there's this: Arrival, film review by Jessica Kiang
It is a very good review. The film is about aliens that land and new type of language is shown. One that is not spoken, one that happens all at once. It doesn't go boink, boink boink, it goes poof here are all the ideas at once. And that manner of language forms a manner of thinking.
I argued with Dr. Fred on this subject. That language determines how we think. I know that by expanding language that the manner of my thinking changed with it. New vocabulary introduced new concepts and further provided new avenues for thought to traverse by neural firing. He argued against that into the ground. He refused to accept my insight. Even though he spoke only English. He refused to respect mah authoritah!
It’s ingrained so deeply in Western culture that science and art are oppositional disciplines, that math and physics belong to one branch of endeavor and creativity, expressiveness and philosophy to another. And that is why great science fiction cinema — and this is great science fiction cinema — can feel like such a pre-eminent genre. Here, using an art form that was itself born of technology, we get to venture out past those simplistic binaries to where there is poetry in mathematics and physics in philosophy — out into the frontiers of our universe and our power to comprehend where science and art are the very same thing. “Arrival” brings us there, and though the conclusions are earthbound and have so much to do with the nature of humanity and our relationship to mortality, my God, they’re full of stars.Thank you Jessica. I needed that. Finally someone who agrees.