Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cultural Imposition on Intellectual Pursuits

The modern arbitrary division between Art and Science was a childhood mystery. I read about men who during the Renaissance had created paintings, architecture, and sculpture, planned cities, invented weapons and battlefield strategies, uniting all these endeavors under the spell of a creative mind. There were priests who studied astronomy, painters who studied anatomy and chemistry, sculptors who studied the properties of stone and bronze and engineered monumental buildings. They were sought after by powerful families and institutions; the wider the range of their knowledge and skills, the more valuable their work. It never occurred to me that as a female I must be excluded from participation in such activities. Intelligent pursuits simply aren't sex-determined, but culture does its best to thwart women's ambitions by imagining that the intellect is gender-bound, that is, what you are permitted to do with your brain is culturally imposed.   

While looking at photographs of medieval architecture, a photo of Speyer Cathedral reminded me of the space shuttle on its launch pad - this impression is of course based on a particular view of the massive building. A supernatural thinker might claim that the similarity is proof that 'God' or some intelligent designer is at work, but both of these 'machines' were designed by humans working within the demands and limits of a universal physical system. Gravity, force, and mass must be balanced and environmental stresses accounted for. The deeper commonality between the massive 11th Century Romanesque cathedral (primarily a tomb for the Holy Roman Emperors, which has been damaged and rebuilt many times) and the Space Shuttle, is the will to obtain limitless technical power.

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