One of the most transformative experiences of my life was standing close enough to a Roy Lichtenstein painting to see the hand-made imperfections of his trademark hard edges.
I don’t mean to wax poetic here—it wasn’t an emotional or spiritual transformation, per se—but that experience involved the gradual realization that technical and, I supposed, intellectual perfection (like the perfection of a perfectly straight edge) is both unattainable and unnecessary for artists, or anyone, to attempt and to achieve.
At the time I wasn’t, what I would describe, an artist; I was quite young but I was totally absorbed in the idea of art. So this experience, which began as a superficial observation, increasingly found application in the way I proceeded to receive the world around me and my potential role in it—despite art, but because of art.
In hindsight, realizing that Lichtenstein’s lines weren’t perfect meant that I could try anything without the weight of my unrealistic expectations obstructing my attempt, and, furthermore, that other people might end up really loving what I do despite the insecurities inherent in my ridiculously close perspective.
I don’t mean to imply, by noticing the minuscule deviations of the lines, that I became in any way disillusioned with Lichtenstein and his work; quite the contrary. I came away from that experience understanding that the artistic “giants” who I admire are not, in fact, precision machines and I was doing everyone a disservice by believing as much. Once I realized this, once I realized everyone is in the same boat, at least two things seemed to happen: 1) I gained practically unconditional compassion for everyone else; and 2) I gained compassion for myself.
UCLA’s Steve Cole from The Social Life of Genes.
Your DNA is not a blueprint. Day by day, week by week, your genes are in a conversation with your surroundings. Your neighbors, your family, your feelings of loneliness: They don’t just get under your skin, they get into the control rooms of your cells.
All the more reason to surround yourself with people who you enjoy
— Aristotle (via panatmansam)
— Victor Hugo (via sergeantinhaler)
I’ve never been female. But I have been black my whole life. I can perhaps offer some insight from that perspective. There are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community, as well as the community of women in a white male dominate society…
When I look at — throughout my life — I’ve known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old…I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expressions of these ambitions. All I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society.
Anytime I expressed this interest, teachers would say, ‘Oh, don’t you wanna be an athlete?’ I want to become someone that was outside of the paradigm of expectations of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest of the universe was so deep and so fuel enriched that everyone of these curve balls that I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reach for more fuel, and I just kept going.
Now, here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I wanna look behind me and say, ‘Where are the others who might have been this,’ and they’re not there! …I happened to survive and others did not simply because of forces of society that prevented it at every turn. At every turn.
…My life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today.
So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity, then we can have that conversation."