In today’s D&C there is an outstanding guest essay written by Patrick C. Burke entitled, "The integral role of the arts in innovation and cultural understanding.”
In it Mr. Burke argues that scientific, business, and medical innovation comes from people who make the practice of fine art an essential component of their lives. He further argues that art is vital for bridging both cultural and political differences because art is universal and an easily understood human commonality.
It is likely that arts and sciences are outcroppings of identical cognitive processes
Burke writes, “Leonardo Da Vinci was arguably the most famous genius of all, but others of prominence include Copernicus and Galileo, both accomplished painters in addition to their roles as forefathers of modern science…. It is likely that arts and sciences are outcroppings of identical cognitive processes, and actually function together to produce results that could not be obtained independently of one another. (The Root-Bernsteins argue that) the separation of arts and sciences in our modern education system is in fact its core problem. This is a shortcoming that limits the capabilities of all members of society.”
In praise of Mr. Burke’s piece I wrote the following: Our society often denigrates art confusing it with entertainment and stereotyping artists as flakes or crazies. Research indicates that we use only about 4% of our brain for conscious thought. About 25% is used for physical management such as pumping blood and inflating the lungs. The balance of our brain’s activity is engaged in unconscious, subconscious “thought.”
The subconscious interprets our environment including our interpersonal transactions. It then provides prompts, clues and "ideas" to our consciousness on how to respond.
Indeed, the activity of the subconscious is termed Primary and that of the consciousness, Secondary. This is an indication of the relationship of the relative activity of our minds. There exists a filter between consciousness and the subconscious but it is the subconscious that does most of our life’s processing. The subconscious interprets our environment including our interpersonal transactions. It then provides prompts, clues and "ideas" to our consciousness on how to respond. The subconscious operates and communicates using symbolism, not the words or logic of consciousness. These symbols are universal among all people (with cultural variations.) Art is the conscious form of subconscious communication with others in the world. Whether it is music, painting, sculpture, dance, design, film, etc., the world of human experience that we cannot access while we are conscious is available and communicable to others through art.
That this idea is itself difficult to communicate, and because art is so poorly taught in this country, the appreciation of the importance of art in scientific, business, interpersonal, cultural, and political communications is badly understood, misjudged and often ridiculed. In America only that which can be commodified seems to have value. If art isn't for sale it is regarded as having little value. Most of the rest of humanity understands the importance of art and supports it as a matter of course.