Tell all the Truth but tell it slant / Success in Circuit lies - Emily Dickinson, Tell the Truth But Tell it Slant
Using a lovely illustration of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night morphing into the Milky Way's magnetic field as viewed by the space observatory, Planck, an article at Universe Today reminded me today of the importance of slant.
What a remarkable coincidence that the observations of our best telescopes peering through hundreds of thousands of light years, even more so, back 13.8 billion years to the beginning of time, reveal images of the Universe that are not unlike the brilliant and beautiful paintings of a human with a mind that gave him no choice but to see the world differently.
There is, of course, no direct connection between his work and subsequent discoveries. Vincent van Gogh did not have the benefit of 21st century astronomics. Nor did he appear enjoy good health. But Universe Today helpfully reminded me that art has eyes too, that the impressionists of his time bravely painted - and were roundly criticized for their efforts - a world not directly accessible to them. Nothing's changed. What's real are the uncountable photons emptying into your corneal pools right now, the reflection of the screen on which the words to this blog post are appearing. Having been electrified by that Brownian energy, our brains impose sense - they select for meaning - on the physical world of which we're a part. Like Van Gogh, we are not mere ordinators endlessly wading through an infinite data set, but metaphorical beings capable of transcending the moment, of inferring and analogizing, of carefully attending to the subjects of our mind's choosing.
There is an obvious follow up question that I'll leave to you.
Slant, however, that fantastic, uniquely human ability to move between silos - slant is what the IdeaFestival does. Using his imaginative faculty and a technique that left the so-called realists aghast, Van Gogh painted a Milky Way that he could scarcely know.
Starry nights can be yours too. But first you must stay curious.
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Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee