After finishing Twilight last week--which filled my monthly quota for mind-numbing/entertaining schlock--I decided it was time to sink my teeth into something a bit meatier (damn those vampires rubbing off on me). (Actually they didn't "rub off" (ew..gross phrase) on anything...that book is about 498 pages of foreplay.)
I was pondering several unread books on my shelf when I received a package from my mother containing two new books. Decision made. I chose to start with Proust Was A Neuroscientist, a series of essays that demonstrate, by using specific artists as examples, how art is often a precursor to scientific fact. I'd be joking if I didn't say much of the text is above my head (talk about poetry all you want, but once you start to mix genomes in, my brain becomes as tangled as a double helix), but I'm still finding a lot to enjoy in Jonah Lehrer's debut book. Any doubts about my interest in the subject matter were laid to rest when I read the introduction, which includes the following quote:
"Unfortunately, our current culture subscribes to a very narrow definition of truth. If something can't be quantified or calculated, then it can't be true. Because this strict scientific approach has explained so much, we assume that it can explain everything. But every method, even the experimental method, has limits. Take the human mind. Scientists describe our brain in terms of its physical details; they say we are nothing but a loom of electrical cells and synaptic spaces. What science forgets is that this isn't how we experience the world. (We feel like the ghost, not the machine.) It is ironic but true: the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. This is why we need art. By expressing our actual experience, the artist reminds us that our science is incomplete, that no map of matter will ever explain the immateriality of our consciousness.
The moral of this book is that we are made of art and science. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, but we are also just stuff. We now know enough about the brain to realize that its mystery will always remain. Like a work of art, we exceed our materials. Science needs art to frame the mystery, but art needs science so that not everything is a mystery. Neither truth alone is our solution, for our reality exists in plural."
In the second chapter, I found the following quote by George Eliot:
"Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience."
How's that for concise?
I'm excited to see what else the book has to offer. I have a feeling it will be much less of a tease than Stephanie Myer's juggernaut.