The 20th century has brought us more comfort than we ever had, and arguably more than we will ever need. It has also brought a new rhythm, a quickened pace that, no doubt, compromises our inner peace. So today, in order to bring some balance to our hasty lives, it’s probably more important than ever, to stop from time-to-time, simply to appreciate the the beauty of nature, life and existence. Most scientific geniuses would agree that these brief moments of pure existential pleasure can be a lot deeper if they are backed with understanding.
Richard P. Feynman, one of the most impressive minds of the 20th century once famously said:
“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.” ~ Richard P. Feynman
This is an animated excerpt from Christopher Sykes’s celebrated 1981 BBC documentary about Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out