Standing At The Intersection of Art and Science

Last week I was in San Francisco at the GE Digital Minds + Machines conference. This is part “thought leadership” and part user seminars.

These conferences always have general sessions where they bring out company leaders to talk about how the company is doing or explain all the great features of its new products. In this case, we got to hear John Flannery, the new CEO of GE, talk a little about his strategy.

Then there is the keynote where they bring in some well known speakers/authors/consultants. These are designed to get you fired up and learn something outside the technical box we’re in.

So GE brought in two famous authors for a conversation—Charlene Li (Groundswell) and Walter Issacson (biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and lately Leonardo da Vinci).

Talking to a room including about 3,000 engineers, Issacson talked about how Steve Jobs described standing at the intersection of art and science. Engineering is good. But the sensibilities of an artist are also needed for a complete life. And for developing great products.

And I’d add—for gaining a more complete understanding of the spiritual life.

You can practice the methods of meditation (I’ve learned many). You can read and read and read. You can pray. But you also need music, painting, sculpture. Do your own, as well as appreciate others.

Another thought from the conversation.

Smart people are a dime a dozen. It’s those with imagination that stand out.

Can you remember being a kid and letting your imagination wander wherever it wanted? One thought led to another and to another?

You can still do that. 

Do you think Einstein just sat down and worked out a lot of advanced math? No. First he imagined a universe. And imagined the movements and how different bodies moved relative to each other. That gave him the insight to go back to the math and say Ah! Ha! That’s how to solve those equations. And they were elegant. And they worked.

Bring that practice to your spiritual discipline. When you read, let your imagination take you there. And imagine your conversations with the text.

Stand at the intersection of art and science.

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