Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Renaissance Woman

Beth Mona Lisa Check it out! That's me on Mona Lisa's face!

Well, that didn't sound quite right, but you know what I meant.

I was a little bothered and bewildered tonight (not bewitched, though) to see someone post about not needing extraneous classes like art or history, because math and science is all that really matters.

*gasp* No. No no no. I got a Bachelor of Science degree and worked in a laboratory for my entire career, and I can tell you without any reservation whatsoever that math and science is most certainly not all that matters. When it comes to theories and scientific matters, of course; that should go without saying. I don't accept things on faith, and know that anyone espousing a theory must subject that theory to scrutiny and risk it being disproven. It happens all the time in science. That's part of the process! You can't just make things up and expect people to believe it. Well, some people can, but that's a topic for another entry.

One of the things I value the most in my life is my four year degree. Although I got a Bachelor of Science, I had to take a fair amount of elective courses outside of my core science classes. I tested out of a lot, including 20 credit hours of German and 8 of English (so I never took a single English class in college...I guess I turned out okay), but I still had to take a few electives. I had a personal finance course that taught me some basics about filing taxes, investing, and money management; I had Psychology and Sociology classes that I really enjoyed, and I've retained an amateur's interest in psychology; I loved the Archaeology class I took, because the first thing I remember wanting to be was an archaeologist; I didn't care for my Anthropology class, but that's because the prof was uninspiring and antagonistic; I took a couple more German classes that I really enjoyed. I signed up for an art class on a whim, but realized that the supplies would cost my folks much more than my passing interest warranted, so I dropped that.

I think my Dad must have given me my insatiable curiosity about so many things, because my desire to learn didn't stop with my chosen profession. I remember Dad telling me about being in Italy during the occupation in WWII, seeing the picture of him doing the obligatory I'm-propping-up-the-Tower-of-Pisa pose, and him telling me about how he felt walking along the streets in the ruts he knew were made by carts a couple of thousand years ago. (It's a sad weekend coming up for me...Father's Day on Sunday, and Dad's birthday on Monday. Although it made me a little teary to write that, I have a big smile on my face as I remember Dad's love of history and the curiosity that he imparted to me. Thanks, Dad!)

Warhol wallpaper Even after I got out of college, I remained curious about various things, including art. My sister Diana is also fascinated by it, and we talked about it a lot, and went to the Art Institute in Chicago several times. We share a love of modern art, and I still remember going to Chicago to see the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Institute. I'm no expert, by any means, but I still have a great appreciation and love of going to galleries. It was quite a revelation to turn a corner and walk into a room to see the El Greco at the Institute. It was so BIG, and so vibrant! They also have "American Gothic," and Seurat's pointillist masterpiece. I still love Edward Hopper and Jackson Pollack and Renoir and Kandinsky and Maxfield Parrish. I suppose many of my tastes are puerile, but I won't make apologies for that. I enjoy what I do, and isn't art there to be interpreted and enjoyed by the viewer?

My musical tastes are far from highbrow, more along the lines of the bizarre and profane, but I'm not unfamiliar with classical. When I play the piano, I play classical. I love everything from the Sex Pistols to Dean Martin. As with art, beauty in music is subjective.

Of course, you know that I love to read, and I run the gamut from the latest Stephen King novel to books about architecture.

I guess I'm just trying to say that getting a degree in science and making that your career does not mean that you should exclude other interests and pursuits. In fact, my personal experience has shown me that being interested in art, literature, and anything removed from science is a pleasant diversion from the usual facts and figures, and it has enriched my life. I've also found that it can result in a connection with others that goes beyond any surface similarities. Most of us know how it feels to have someone get our obscure references about pop culture or art or movies, and debates are all the richer when we have the perspective of history and a sense of knowledge beyond our own tiny little sphere.

It's important to remember that it's a big world out there. A narrow world view limits us not only as individuals, but as citizens of the world. I suppose there are some that say they don't give a rat's ass about being a citizen of the world. I would say to you that you have no choice. You're already here.


  1. we went a year without specials- it sucked and when money is tight, specials are the first things to get cut from a school's budget.


  2. The person who is only science and math is not a complete person.
    As is the person who is only art and literature.

    My father was a chemistry professor and a stained glass artist.
    That's the greatest lesson I ever learned: not to be one-dimensional.

  3. I was reading somewhere about how the science is overlooked as being 'only for scientist types' and it was okay to be ignorant of science in general. The arguement was that as a culture we need to overcome the 'it is okay not to know science' stigma that exisits.

    I think that the same kind of bias or ignorance is made in general when it comes to scholarship. For some reason it seems that material gain has been seperated from having comprehensive knowledge, and I think that is a major problem.

    Scientist tend not to be limited in knowing only their field... maybe it helps that the way that information is processed scientifically also allows them to understand and see how systems work in other areas.

    It is rare for a scientist to say, 'yeah, I am deep into molecular biology but that Shakespeare stuff is too much for me', whereas if the English major were to say the opposite, nothing less would be thought of him and people would even understand where they were coming from.

    I guess I think sciece folks have an insatiable curiousity about them and the capacity to follow where it leads without losing their focus on their primary interest. That is why folks think there should be a greater focus on 'numbers' because they cannot understand how the electives relate to making progress and advancing humanity.

    They think it is about having the most toys instead of having the most fun with toys.

  4. When not out protecting the nation, Mark is a high school science teacher and would be the first to agree with you. I find science very interesting and hang around in the dinningroom when Mark is tutoring a student. he/she who stops learning, stops living.

  5. You know, Mona looks alittle like me :)

  6. When I was teaching, my students were surprised that I often take classes. I like to take dance and language classes. And of course cooking. I told them that learning is a lifelong process.

    My mother holds a degree in biology although if she did it all over, it would be in math. She sings, draws, paints, and until her sight started to fail, read endlessly. As a kid I was surprised by her artistic ability. She explained that in biology, one often has to draw what one sees.

  7. Art and music work in and help form parts of our brains that we need in life. It's not all "one or the other", people.

  8. Fun picture.:)

    Agreed Beth. Everyone should be a citizen of the world and a life long learner. If you don't like it, tough, you are already here, locked on this floating bubble of life; get over it.

  9. Great post! Yes! Thank you.

  10. Beth I always thought you were a Graphic Designer. The first time I visited your site I was in awe, on how to create a banner like yours. I know that you are super cool and informed, but by no means you are not art limited. You fooled me. Which proofs my point, art as any other subject has nothing to do with talent, it has to do with knowledge. Now I get your fascination for reaching deep. You and Bucko are scientists. Thanks for this post

  11. Great post, Beth! (And btw, you make a stunning Mona Lisa!) Nothing should be left out of our education and the education of our children. I struggled last year with getting Eler Beth to do her history lessons, and, seriously, I made them interesting, I swear! I loved history as a child, so it was beyond my ken that she wouldn't. She doesn't. Oh well, we all have our favorite subjects. I finally closed any and all arguments on the question of whether learning World and American History were actually necessary to her education by telling her that regardless of whether she was learning anything that would mean anything to her or be of any use to her in the future, she was *learning* and that was the point. Any time you learn something new you are creating new synopses in your brain -- right? You're the scientist, so correct me if I'm wrong. She loves music and art, and she loves science. She likes math, tolerates language, and is learning to tolerate history. By giving her all she wants of everything she loves, and by exposing her as much as possible to the others, I am hoping that her little sponge-like brain is soaking up more than she realizes and creating all kinds of little gray-matter learning bridges that are going to enrich her life now and in the future and make it easier for her to excel in whatever endeavors she makes. We don't need art or history? Puh-lease!


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?