So much this. His “artist” friend was doing more to constrain and to dessicate the concept of beauty than any scientist ever would. There’s beauty in the flower, in its daily phototropic dance, in its cells, in the interplay between it and the rest of its environment. Why would discovering these things, or refining knowledge of these things, kill that beauty?
I don’t like this correlation, this idea that one can only have an appreciation of beauty when there’s also an ignorance of how it works. Or ignorance of anything else, for that matter. I can be pretty dang idealistic, and the material world can be an incredible pain in the ass — and I love how art can transcend those crude limitations. But knowledge isn’t poison, and the material world isn’t poison. Why would anyone choose to see the world this way? Isn’t this part of an artist’s purpose, to drink deeply of the world and metabolize these material things into inspiration and new forms of beauty?
Maybe the poison comes from that process, the way the amygdalin in apple seeds and bitter almonds metabolizes into hydrogen cyanide. The poison isn’t there in the almond, and for those who aren’t trying to eat it, there’s no problem. The primrose can cause allergic dermatitis – not irritation by contact, but because of the immune system itself overreacting, in misguided self-defense, to the primin. Artists like Feynman’s friend seem to make poison of the material world, as part of the metabolic matter-into-energy process of Art. They feel the effects — but think the poison was in the material world already, and that they’re only taking that poisonous crude matter and making it into energy, into Art. Then they caution non-artists against analyzing that “poisonous” material world in other ways, like through science — asserting that scientific analysis can never bring forth energy, never bring forth inspiration, never bring forth such a sense of beauty, and that it can only wallow in that inherent toxicity of the material world. Asserting that only artists can know true and unfettered beauty. Leading us down the primrose path.
Maybe a finer artist is able to understand that they create their own poison – and can break it down even further.
But there’s no less beauty in a flower when you understand how it works – painful elements and all.
…This has been Overextended Metaphor Theatre.