We have, for quite some time now, been trying to disassemble life into its individual components in order to facilitate the never-ending task of studying it. It’s huge, this life of ours, and we have to inspect its elements one by one in order to come closer to comprehending the whole. That’s how we arrived at science.
The goal of science is to measure with extreme precision the constituents that form the cohesive whole of our physical world. And as a result, science has equipped us with answers that enabled us to walk on the moon, to modify DNA, to postpone death. These are tremendous achievements. It would make sense then, considering the successes we have enjoyed, to apply the same methods of discovery to making sense of our private worlds - internal, intangible and hidden. But hard science, while suitable for rather absolute conclusions about the global state of our affairs, is not as fitting for us on an individual level. While the flow of neurotransmitters between our synapses probably does hold a comprehensive explanation to why we pick tea over coffee, chocolate over salad, compassion over aggression, is distilling our functioning to fixed values practical, and more importantly, is it beneficial to our wellbeing?
For example, a motorcycle’s functionality can be broken down into its individual components, but what component produces the satisfaction we experience when on a cold evening the engine starts and fills the air with a pleasant rumble that conveys a sense of adventure? Where in the specifications of the vehicle can we find the category listing the values for that particular feeling? There isn’t one. Because the feeling is intangible, boundless, immeasurable. Similarly, our psychological world is too uncertain, too volatile, too unpredictable to be restricted to precise scientific measurement. In fact, the more precise we get, the further away we move from achieving understanding, the further away we move from the truth, the further away we move from adventure.
This is where science comes up short. The place for linear logic is not in our daily internal monologues with ourselves, nor is it in the weary hours of Sunday afternoons as we ready our systems for another forward burst. We need another kind of science, a science that doesn’t strive to answer every question, but on the contrary, a science that thrives in the unknown. Luckily we have just that kind of science and it is called art.
What art teaches us is that in tending to our emotional needs we must abstain from the extreme desire to locate absolutes, to find definite answers. Answers might lead us in the wrong direction. Knowing is not how it works. In fact, if we found out how it works, it could stop working entirely. The spirit thrives in the obscure, in the uncertain space between now and what used to be now just a second ago. It is not possible to anchor ourselves to one state, to find permanent stability, to find endless peace. We are organic, ever-evolving, growing, changing human beings. It is our nature to shift, develop, mature, or get younger.
We are not fear nor love. We are not order nor chaos. We are not life nor death. We are a little bit of everything all at once.