Wednesday, March 25, 2009

High on the hill

I watched this clip today, sent to me by a friend. I completely believe this, 100 percent. So why do I feel embarrassed saying so?

Maybe it’s because so many other artists and writers are skeptical of this kind of romantic, spiritual creative process. Primitive cultures aren’t, for sure. They believe that art taps into divinity. Generally, the artists and the shamans are the exact same people. So what place does art have in a world of scientific rationalism? I don’t know. Maybe that is why all artists go crazy and shoot themselves with shotguns in cabins in Montana.

Then again, all artists don’t. A companion piece, a point-counterpoint to the Gilbert speech, is the recent article about Ian McEwen in the New Yorker. Here is a writer who has abandoned all hope of the mystical, who has completely embraced the dominance of science in all areas of life. I, too, believe in science. But what, specifically, do I believe about science? That science always leads back to the mystical, even when everything is completely explained.

Current scientific theory holds that the universe curves back in on itself at the outer edges of time. The human brain remains an almost completely unexplored phenomenon. We’ve been unable to replicate even the most basic scientific process--photosynthesis--manually. I always think of the Mandelbrot Sequence, the exquistely beautiful graph of numbers that delves into infinity, explored in one of Arthur C. Clarke’s obscure books (I don’t even remember its title). That is science, that is art, that is God.

That doesn’t mean that I believe in a god of the gaps. I believe that God IS the gaps, that God IS science, that the creative process is as scientific as anything else, and that being able to explain something scientifically doesn’t take away its mystery.

The McEwan article reminds me of my favorite quote from Maus, where the lead character quotes Samuel Beckett as saying, “Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.”

“Yes,” responds his mouse-masked therapist.

A beat.

“On the other hand, he SAID it,” says Maus.

“He was right,” says the therapist. “Maybe you can include it in your book.”

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