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.