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Friday, December 6, 2013

Between Poetry and Science

When outdoors I'm not inclined to quantify.  I often say about catching fish that I lose count after three, and although said jokingly it's generally true and comes from this disinclination.  Since most of my fishing is catch and release, counting and measuring fish to comply with laws is generally not an issue.  When I plan to retain my catch it's usually on someone else's boat on the Bay, and because captains are conscientious about fishing regulations they keep track of size and number of fish without depending on the anglers.

In the business world where I worked for about 40 years, I quantified in order to make and justify decisions.  Time, money, output and other variables were tracked and analyzed constantly.  Doing so was an ingrained habit for me at work, but outdoors I behave differently. If I were a scientist systematically expanding our knowledge of nature, I wouldn't have this freedom.  A book I recently read, Why Birds Sing by David Rothenberg, contains a passage which describes this difference:

"The response of nineteenth-century naturalists to bird song falls somewhere in the valley between science and poetry.  A  naturalist spends long hours paying complete attention to nature, not to conduct experiments or derive a satisfaction in certainty, but for the sheer pleasure of awareness.  To look, listen, and learn, and to come home with that kind of knowledge that is closer to acquaintance, to gain a familiarity with the world of birds, to share in their experience, not necessarily to explain it."

Between a scientist and a poet seems like a comfortable place whether the focus is birds or fish or anything else in nature.  One accumulates data to test a hypothesis, and the other obtains inspiration for his art.  Those of us in the middle are free to experience the Now.


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