The Artist-Scientist

In my mid-teens, I’d already come up against the rigidity of the British education system which force-fits young people at an early age into boxes labelled ‘scientist’, ‘artist’, ‘linguist’ – or whatever. I rebelled against this in my own quiet way by adding Art to my science A-Levels. I wrote a post earlier this year bemoaning one effect that this force-fitting seems to produce – the ‘I’m crap at maths and not ashamed to say it’ syndrome.

I’m asked, on occasion, what makes a good planner. I rarely look to academic qualifications, and in the past, have been as likely to choose someone with an obscure degree or even no degree at all as someone with a business degree. In fact, the business degree people I often give a harder time to as they may already have been taught to think in a certain way.

My ideal planner would fit the artist-scientist archetype. By this, I mean someone for whom thinking or intellect is not the only way of revealing ‘truth’, but who is equally at home with other modes of perception. The artist-scientist is a creator, inventor, dreamer and thinker simultaneously. Their focus is discovery, not prediction and pinning down ‘facts.’ They are people driven by wonder and curiosity. It may have killed the cat, but it’s what keeps the artist-scientists going.

These people are the source of change, the people who question, the people who keep their minds open and don’t always go with the flow. From Leonardo da Vinci, to Nikola Tesla, to C.G.Jung, these people feel uncomfortable with the narrow designation (which includes all those 21st century prefixes to the word planner.)

To finish, here’s Joseph Campbell on the figure of Daedalus, the archetypal artist-scientist:

Most curiously, the very scientist who, in the service of the sinful king, was the brain behind the horror of the labyrinth, quite as readily can serve the purposes of freedom. But the hero-heart must be at hand. For centuries Daedalus has represented the type of the artist-scientist: that curiously disinterested, almost diabolic human phenomenon, beyond the normal bound of social judgement, dedicated to the morals not of his time but of his art. He is the hero of the way of thought – singlehearted, courageous and full of faith that the truth, as he finds it, shall make us free.

And, maybe I’d want that too – ‘the hero-heart at hand’ – as much as this person is beyond social judgement, they should have a feeling, connectedness, empathy with their fellow human-beings.

Not much to ask, eh?

Originally Posted on http://secretagencyblog.blogspot.com/


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