One of my favorite places to visit when I travel to the DC area is the National Gallery of Art. I could get lost in that building for ages. You can walk through history and watch art develop from two dimensional iconography to paintings that you could swear were photographs. I never leave without a sense of wonder and awe at the talent God gives people to create beauty.
People who know me may find this odd. Historically, some people have called me a robot worthy of the title, “the only living heart donor.” (borrowed from the movie Sabrina) I do not wear my emotions on my sleeve. I reserve that place for intellect. I like to think of myself as a rigorous logician-thinker. If this is so, why then do I find art so fascinating? Can a mathematician who finds beauty in numbers appreciate the Matterhorn? Can the physicist appreciate a sunset? Is it possible for a “left-brain” to appreciate “right-brain” talents?
As one who accepts this apparent incongruity within himself, I must also wonder if the reverse may prove true. Can the artist appreciate the precision of physics? Can the musician appreciate the artistry of legal argument? Are we captive to our professional predilections? Are we incapable of broadening our horizons or do we use our personality tendencies to justify our resistance to change and challenges to our worldview?
I have recently read books on personality and human development. These books attempt to categorize people into discrete groups of people with distinct traits at odds with people that fall into other categories. While generally helpful and at some points insightful, these efforts tend to stratify individuals absolutely. We take the guidelines helpful in understanding ourselves and use them to justify our resistance to change. “We cannot be other than we are.” This attitude becomes toxic when it applies to other people. Humans habitually turn distinctions into segregations. We separate ourselves based on any number of differences. We assume that we are so different that we cannot begin dialogue between people of different personalities. Though people think differently, they do not think so differently that communication becomes impossible. The artist and the mathematician can form a meaningful and helpful conversation.
We must understand our proclivity toward one personality trait and work to develop its opposite. Logicians can feel, and emotes can reason. Concrete thinkers can talk in abstractions, and abstract thinkers can talk in concrete terms. No person finds himself entrapped in his own personality. Suggesting otherwise leads people into rank determinism. Even Calvinists who believe in predestination believe in sanctification, the growth in grace in which the believer changes.
Our problem involves our resistance to change. We like staying within the comfort zone of understanding. Logical people hate dealing with emotions. Emotional people find logic boring and confusing. Concrete thinkers find abstractions useless. Abstract thinkers find it difficult to construct real world examples of their theories. Bridging the gap between our predilections and their reverse proves difficult, but not impossible.
Sherlock’s rose demonstrates the depth of our commonality. The greatest logician can speak even poetically about a flower and the prospect of a benevolent providence. For Holmes, it was the mystery of that beauty that intrigued him. It was the puzzle he could not solve.