Monday, May 23, 2011

The Engineer and the Artist

I've noticed a pattern emerge amongst my friends and myself.

Many of my highly technical friends are computer scientists, mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. They would be the canonical examples of left-brain thinkers. Most of them have married (or in an active relationship) with an artist of some kind. The significant others are the canonical examples of right-brain thinkers.

The pairing is perfect.

Since I'm most familiar with my wife, I'll share some things I've learned about my wife and life in general.

My wife inspires me.

Before my wife, I was a methodical machine producing code. I try to change the world and make it better. Engineering, science, math are the ways we organic clumps of meat transform reality to make our lives better. Life is messy, and its our job as engineers is to clean it up. Why?

Once I've constructed the perfect reality where I sit in the middle of a vast plane of mathematical perfectness sitting on my throne of enlightenment, then what? Seriously, once I achieve the perfect state of the universe, then what? Once I've made all the money in the world, then what? Once I've built what I wanted to build, then what? Once I've built the ships to carry us out to conquer the universe, then what? Once I've conquered the universe, then what? Once I've reduced all existence to a single dense form, then what?

Explode, break it, and fuck things up. That's what.

Engineering is the way we improve our lives, but it is not the answer to the meaning of why we live. People find meaning in all sorts of ways. This is when I discovered art. Why is that pretty? Why does that move me? Why does a song sound beautiful? What are these emotional things? Why are the cracks in the pavement interesting?

These questions are the ones that turn a black and white reality into a messy pile of grey.

Who employs my wife? me. Now, if I could just get her to sign the damn employee agreement! Artists!

Seriously, I love my wife. Everyday, she teaches me what it means to be human. She breaks the mechanical barrier that I have around my heart, and she inspires me to be better. Not better in the engineering sense, but better in the sense of being a human being. Without my wife, I would probably turn into some troll.

Life needs more love.

I think engineers are attracted to artists for this reasons. If you are an engineer, then you have to deal with the shitty facts of reality. Like the speed of light. The speed of light is a mother fucking bitch. I hate it. Laws of thermodynamics suck too. Gravity, oh its a mother fucker! Seriously, life is full of shit that some engineer has to go in and work around.

Why do we deal with all this shit? Well, because life is harsh without engineering.

Now, I'm not saying that engineering is devoid of art, engineering can be an art. However, at the end of the day, the things engineers build have to work. This means that engineers can not wave around magic wands and make life better. It's slow methodical work that requires team-work.

Art fundamentally does not answer the ultimate question of life. This question, which spawns religion, is in my mind unanswerable using any formal reasoning system. I have no methodical way of exploring this question, so I don't. Art however is a great way to keep our minds off that question.

Meeting an engineer's significant other generally will generally tell you everything about them. My wife is the kindest person I've met. She feels bad for stepping on flowers. She's sweet and kind. She changes my world view much to my infantile protests. I swear, she doesn't have a mean bone in a body. She even recycles hard-core!

She inspires me to try to write poetry, and she opens my heart in a way that I can't express. I can't engineer a feeling, but her existence is like poetry.

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