2.25.2014

Self Discovery: Mysticism or Science?

Yesterday I read an article on the NYTimes (Alan Alda, Spokesman for Science by Claudia Dreifus) about Alan Alda's latest project, helping to spread the joy of science to all types of audiences.

Alda recommends adding a little bit of showmanship and impromptu ad-libbing to help bring some life and personality into science lessons or discussions. Something I heartily agree with.

Alda interviewed hundreds of scientists for his Scientific American Frontiers series, and brought an immense curiosity and amount of questions to his work. I've always thought that a genuine curiosity typically brings out the best conversations in life. Something that I enjoyed when I worked in newspapers and had to interview individuals for profiles or stories.

Alda brings up something very interesting, his ability to both think creatively and critically. I think that a lot of people, perfectly capable of being conversational and pleasant, sometimes tend to drone when discussing their work or career. Self awareness when presenting or conversing is not something that comes natural to those of us who spend a lot of time on or own, either researching, reading, writing, or discovering cool new stuff (like scientists).

Adding a little creativity, if you will, to teaching and discussing science, is something that I couldn't agree more with. For example, I definitely enjoyed when Walt White was more animated than usual during his chemistry classes ;o)

Then there's a section of the interview with Alda, on the NYTimes article, that brought me down to one of my own "growing up" kind of realizations. I realized that over the last few years I've lost some of my childlike wonder and innocence (a.k.a., easily being fooled, or awe in things) in that I seek to be a critical thinker rather (nonplussed, annoyed, even bored) than a person lost in the what ifs and their imagination. Here's the quote:

"At the time, I’d been reading a lot about the paranormal and telepathy, and I thought Scientific American would help me know if any of that was true. There, I discovered a whole other way to think, based on evidence. And so I left my interest in spiritualism behind, in favor of critical thinking."

I can still be carried away, at times, rarely anymore, by a beautiful picture of nature or an animal on my Facebook or Instagram feeds. If I'm in a spectacular environment, I'll stop and try to soak part of it in. But, maybe regrettably, more and more I like to go for critical thinking whenever explaining or evaluating something inside my head.

This comes down to my having noticed quite a few changes in my personality and/or attitude, of late. I'm glad for the introspection and self discovery, but also trying not to feel too much regret for past decisions that cannot be changed. It's a tricky balance.

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy reading about passionate scientists who bring a lot of flair to their work. While I learn about others' self discovery paths as well. Thanks Alan Alda.