“We now know enough to know that we will never know everything. This is why we need art: it teaches us how to live with mystery. Only the artist can explore the ineffable without offering us an answer, for sometimes there is no answer. John Keats called this romantic impulse ‘negative capability.’ He said that certain poets, like Shakespeare, had ‘the ability to remain in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ Keats realized that just because something can’t be solved, or reduced into the laws of physics, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art.”
-from Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer
I just had a striking, inspirational, mind-blowing moment. And I feel the urge to somehow record this moment. In the recent month or so, I’ve been having several such moments. It’s a grand experience fairly new to me, and I promise that only the people who’ve experienced the moment knows the grandness of it.
The moment tonight is one that confirmed a groundbreaking philosophical revelation I had a few weeks ago in a shower. I was overjoyed in finding somebody’s words so effectively articulating the revelations I had that were beyond my words. It’s like I found a guy to back me up. I’m not alone in this thought. Well, the quote only backs up a part of my revelation, but still, it’s enough.
And tonight, I attempt at recording the behind story that’s been accumulating up to this moment…
I don’t think I’m naturally a philosophical, analytical thinker. But given the influence of my psychologist mother and the deep-thinkers around me recently, I am becoming that more and more. So yes, recently I’ve been overcome with a lot of philosophical thinking.
A few weeks ago, I had a truly grand moment in the shower. A friend tells me that that’s all showers are for: eureka moments. Anyway. A lot of things came together. And I had what I geekily told my friends later a “striking, cosmological revelation.” It was a merging of philosophical thoughts, recent new discoveries of myself, and the rather grand subject matters that have recently been fighting for my attention.
From the experience of trying to explain this to some friends, I know that there is absolutely no way that I could fully describe this Bang adequately. And I know that the more I try to describe it in words, I do less justice to the Bang. But that’s fine, even that is part of the revelation I had. Anyway, I will attempt at getting at the very essence, at least.
The stuff about my personal life, that’s personal. Has to do with the transforming experience I had in the past year as a twenty-year-old. It’s amazing how my 20th birthday marked a new start, and then my 21st birthday marked an ending of that and a beginning of a better understanding of that year.
Putting that aside, the more philosophical cosmic realization I had brings together the universe (looked at scientifically), art, and religion. That’s pretty cosmic, right? I keep using that term, “cosmic”, and even bringing the science into my thoughts because I just finished taking my first and last science class in college—Astronomy 101: Modern Cosmology. Aside from the quizzes/tests and formulas, I quite enjoyed this class. I could go on and on about the mind-boggling ideas I picked up from this class, but I won’t. The video I saw in the last lecture on string theory (i think?) particularly stuck with me.
It discussed theories of higher dimensions (up to 10th) in the universe. But as earthlings, we only know up to the fourth. We cannot even fathom beyond that. But one way of imagining it even remotely is by looking at the relationship between 2D and 3D. When a transparent, three-dimensional cube casts a shadow on a table, the shadow represents that object two-dimensionally. It’s missing a dimension, but we can look at that shadow and sort of picture what its 3D equivalent must look like. And then the guy in the video showed some bizarre 3D shape, saying that might be what the shadow of a higher dimension looks like… and he lost me there..
But in the shower a few days later, I kept thinking into what that shadow of the higher dimension must look like in our world. And then BAM, it hit me first that GOD must be living in muuuch higher dimension than us. And that is exactly why we cannot possibly fully piece together ‘God’ with our ridiculously limited components. We are just missing too many dimensions. We can only see a remote “shadow” of God in this world. And even that, some people are obviously missing it.
So what is God’s shadow here? I think it can be many things. Very many elusive things, like love and supernatural things and all the intertwining narratives in the world and even science itself. And each of these deserve a discussion of their own. But instead it hit me that ART must be a shadow of God and higher dimensions.
By the time I got to this part of describing my idea to my friends, I inevitably got stuck. For one, it has to do with the fact that people who have never tried training themselves to be an artist won’t understand the “art part” of this discussion. Not in a condescending way, but simply because they don’t know from lack of experience. Making art is a constant questioning of why I’m doing this and what it means to make art. But besides this reason, I also couldn’t explain how art links to the idea of reflecting the higher dimensions. I could only repeat “because art is always pointing at something higher, you know? Something more than itself?” But I could tell from the puzzled looks of my friends that this part didn’t quite click with them.
BUT TODAY. Out of a random strike of luck, I came across the quote above. And realized that THAT explains in the most eloquent and precise manner a part of the elusive idea I was trying to get at. Even I myself didn’t know that that’s what I really meant. But when I read it, it struck me instantly. “Only the artist can explore the ineffable without offering us an answer, for sometimes there is no answer.” YES. And there “is no answer” because we are missing too many dimensions. And art tries to explore that without trying to pin down the unanswerable. And THAT’s what makes art beautiful.
Now I have toread that book by Jonah Lehrer. Apparently it’s about why art and science need each other. And although for the longest time I’ve been an adversary of science because of its inflexible, cold, defining tendencies, I learned from this cosmology class that science only opens up more mysterious doors of this universe, and I liked that.
Hew, what a geeky awesome friday night.
If you made it through this post, I’m impressed. Now chew on that.