Objective Lenses

(Friday, November 3, 2006, 12:12 p.m.)

copied from Myspace blog

There's a difficulty some intellectuals (the scientific-analytical-logical types of intellectuals, in particular) face when dealing with the world. It is one of the reasons why atheists sometimes wish they could be otherwise. We use our objective, reductive apparatus to break everything down into the most basic elements, and in the aftermath everything seems dead, without higher purpose, a lot of meaningless particles swimming around the universe.

I have a friend who's working on trying to get a science fiction novel published, and he has a scene in his story where a man is enjoying a sunset with his beloved and suddenly finds himself analyzing the movements of her face, imagining the bones and muscles moving underneath, while she looks at him with increasing alarm and horror. (In the story, this man renounces science after having this experience.)

But I'm not sure it generally works that way for me, and I don't think it has to for any intellectual. There is a difference in focus. There is a time to appreciate the whole of an experience complete with the esthetic appreciation, the natural emotions that flow from the experience, its beauty and poetry. Then, there is a time to put on the lenses of ruthless objectivity and take a hard look at things. (For those of you who have read Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" there is a nice between-chapters section where the narrator, an ornithologist, notes that one doesn't have to lose sight of the beauty and poetry of the sight of the hunting owl, even after one has spent a good deal of time collecting measurements of wing-span, counting spots, etc.) This is probably common sense, but it is interesting to notice. Being able to wear both the lenses of objectivity and poetic receptivity seems important for the intellectual's peace of mind, and knowing when to put which one on and take the other off.

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