Pearls from artists* # 272

Barbara's studio

Barbara’s studio

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

One important distinction that can be made between physicists and novelists, and between the scientific and artistic communities in general, is what I shall call “naming.”  Roughly speaking, the scientist tries to name things and the artist tries to avoid naming things.

To name a thing, one needs to have gathered it, distilled and purified it, attempted to identify it with clarity and precision.  One puts a box around the thing and says what’s in the box is the thing and what’s not is not…

… The objects and concepts of the novelist cannot be named.  The novelist might use the words love and fear, but these names do not summarize or convey much to the reader.  For one thing, there are a thousand different kinds of love…

… Every electron is identical, but every love is different.

The novelist doesn’t want to eliminate these differences, doesn’t want to clarify and distill the meaning of love so that there is only a single meaning… because no such distillation exists.  And any attempt at such a distillation would undermine the authenticity of readers’ reactions, destroying the delicate, participatory creative experience of a good reader reading a good book.  In  sense, a novel is not complete until it is read.  And each reader completes the novel in a different way.     

Alan Lightman in A Sense of the Mysterious:  Science and the Human Spirit

Comments are welcome!

About barbararachkoscoloreddust

Barbara’s thoughts on art, the creative process, soft pastel, the inspiration she finds in travel, what it’s like to be an artist in New York City, and other wisdom for artists as we travel our solitary and sometimes lonely roads.

Posted on November 1, 2017, in 2017, An Artist's Life, Art in general, Inspiration, New York, NY, Pearls from Artists, Quotes, Studio and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I don’t really agree with this quote. A person who is both scientist and artist loves the mystery and beauty of our universe. Naming is merely is part of a description used to describe something to someone else. The mystery may still remain, and that is beautiful.

  2. Hmm…what would happen if a physicists were to write a novel about love? I understand what Sherry Felix is saying, but I do agree with the sense of the quote.

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