I have always thought of myself as a diehard scientist. Yet, the older I get, the more often I ask, “What’s the point of all this, exactly?” And I find that the only things that quench, temporarily, this existential angst are works of art. Hearing a beautiful piece of music, seeing a really good movie, reading a well-written novel… These give me great joy. Expressing myself in creative ways is also deeply satisfying. Drawing or writing something that never existed before, even it it’s not very good, feels great nonetheless.
The older I get, the more appreciation I gain for the arts and humanities. The human experience is incomplete without them. I have less of a need to be entertained and more to be really… Moved, I suppose. I finally seem to understand why it’s mostly older folks viewing the screenings of independent movies or going to the symphony here. Sure, they have more money than the younger people… But perhaps it’s also that they have a deeper appreciation for art as a genuine way for humans to connect with the world around them.
In a discussion a little while ago, someone brought up that religion serves this purpose for some people. I am not religious, and I don’t think a deity in necessary to treat midlife angst. What I need is a way to connect with other people through the activities that bring about something new and beautiful.
Eldest has become really good at playing his instrument. I am really proud of him: he just won a top state-level award for a solo. As I drive him around to play with his class mates, I get to see how making music together bonds people of different ages and backgrounds. Making something beautiful together.
Below is a beautifully written short book I read recently, Binti. Nnedi Okorafor is a renowned sci-fi author; this was the first book of hers I read and I am looking forward to more.
Go and enjoy something beautiful. Go and create something beautiful.
Lovely reflections on a rainy day. It’s wonderful that Eldest has found his way into making beautiful music. That’s one thing I’ve missed since becoming pregnant and having my first baby — I just haven’t had time for singing. I knew women who managed to sing when they had infants, but for now I’m putting all my available time into family. Someday, I’ll go back.
And Binti is now on my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation! I’m currently rereading Dawn, by Octavia Butler, and remembering why she’s such a celebrated author.
Thanks, lyra! Singing well is a wonderful talent to have (I can’t sing at all).
Being in a career that focuses more on the teaching side of academic science, I find that I need to know more about humanities and social science than I ever thought I would need. Sometimes so that I can draw on the fruits of educational research, but more often so I can offer informed pushback back against people who don’t understand social science and just uncritically jump on bandwagons.