Sunday, June 08, 2008

Art and Science: A Tagore Perspective

At several points of time ever since I can trace back my conscience, I have always been intrigued by the relationship between science and art. And then which one is more superior; which one subsumes the other. And then it did also occur to me: why do we at all need to make such a comparison?

Even today when I am in one of those philosophical moods, I try to find a ground. I have often talked to friends and I always hear extreme opinions: some of them say they are great in their own places; some say science is guided by rules which could be reproduced in a similar fashion every time, but then the same piece of art would be different every time the same artist makes it. Art is an expression of human emotion and thought which is very complicated. But none of those conversations sounded satisfactory to me until today when I wrote this blog.

Today I happened to read this conversation that Tagore had with Einstein back in 1930. Both were established in their own fields: being the proud recipients of Nobel Prizes for their much admired work in art and science respectively. However apart from a jovial flush of pleasure reading the conversation of two great men of all times, I felt, as I read it, it tended to answer my question of the relationship that art and science share. It was more than another conversation: because it was between two people so smart in their arenas yet completely unaware of the other. I felt how closely intertwined art and science are as far as our perception of the physical reality and life at large goes.

I find it marvelous to notice some of the interesting analogies that Tagore puts to connect Einstein's work on Relativity with human passions, music and life. I am amazed at the way Tagore explains how a very restless, ever-changing, unruly and transitory human thought process still yields a calm and harmonious individual. And about how music though bound by its own set of rules still lets the singer the liberty to mould it in his or her own way. And then how lines and colors though completely different, come as a harmonious whole to make a piece of painting beautiful. The analogies between these pieces of art and the laws governing quantum physics at the probabilistic atomic level and the organized element level are quite intriguing!

I believe the question of whether art or science is better is vague and meaningless. Both coherently describe our existence and the way universe is organized. It really depends on the frame of reference. To a painter, a cloud is a bright white patch coloring a blue vista; while to a physicist it is an ensemble of water droplets due to surface evaporation.

The same rule of a frame of reference applies to our lives. It is really how we perceive it. Happiness or woes, opportunities, farsight, planning: it all depends what we are looking for in life. And in most cases, life gives it to us: sometime someway!


Deepak Srinivasan said...

this is interesting!
very interesting to say the least.
I have been quite the "questor" about science and the arts and their interrelationship if any and also, their relationship to larger pictures of mankind.
I was a biologist who then chose to work in the arts, community driven arts and theatre. I am still pursuing some of those very things.
i had been walking around asking this question, science and the arts and knew, or intuitively felt that the two need to relate at this juncture of mankind's development...find common ground and learn and fit the missing puzzles....
and it was indeed heartening to find someone ask such a question even!
quite cool

Munmun said...

@ Deepak
Thanks I am glad that my question made sense to someone else! It is great to hear you have pursued interests in the Arts despite a Bio background! I am intrigued by art always, and that's why took to PhD which is a philosophical pursuit of a phenomenon. I work on social networks which conjures up in itself how we communicate with each other - a very deep-grained artifact of art.
A common ground of art and science seems to me a very plausible explanation of the physical reality that we live in...