In what has to be today’s most unsurprising piece of news, I’m moving back to Sydney full-time in October which is – yikes! – seven weeks away.
On one hand, it’ll be wonderful living again in my favourite city in the world without the rush of knowing my time is limited before I have to leave again. On the other hand, I have to deal with the hell of moving … and there’s little to diminish that pain; well, perhaps with the possible exception of using packing time as a rare chance of de-cluttering my life.
Books, for example, are something I can never take a firm position. Do I keep? Do I toss? Books on creativity are particularly hard for me to make a decision. One example that fits this conundrum is The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, an anthology of short stories by the physicist Richard Feynman. It’s a great read, but it’s not something I’d probably read again. But then I opened it to a flagged page and remembered again why the book got its first reprieve from a heave-ho.
My favourite essay in the book – “The Beauty of a Flower” – is a perfect example of if one wants to be creative, they need to embrace two opposing behaviours. One part of the imagination must be big picture, open, aesthetic and non-judgmental, while the other half must be inquisitive, obsessive, intellectually factual and relentless. Because they’re entirely different mindsets (Feynman notwithstanding), most people are either/or. But I know from experience that the best creative thinkers leverage both sides equally, and as important, switch deftly between the two as needed.
Here’s the “The Beauty of a Flower” in its entirety. And yes, the book stays for now.
“I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, ‘Look how beautiful it is,’ and I’ll agree, I think. And he says – ‘You see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.’ And I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me, too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is; but I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time I see much more about the flower than he sees. I can imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter, there is also beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure. Also the processes, the fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting – it means that insects can see color. It adds a question: Does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which show that a science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it subtracts.”