Art
    An average artistic awareness is all I claim; not an unusual understanding, appreciation, passion -- let alone talent. If any of my writing, speaking or gardening is indeed artful, it is more so because of instinct or subconscious prodding than by design, and that portion of my work that is intentionally artistic is prompted as much by a sense of the task at hand, or role of the product -- as by anything approaching a need to express myself in artistic fashion.
    For example I arrange my bricks in gracefully curving lines, giving consideration to how they look from a distance, and I choose them also to appear neat up close. All this would seem artistic, being much more studied and time-consuming than minimalistic functional brickwork. But I build with bricks not to satisfy either my creative urges or other viewer's eyes. Instead I build because I need paths, steps or borders, own a ready supply of bricks, and consciously try to not create an eyesore. My work must be functional, and conform to my sense of esthetics. With bricks, unlike wood, it is very easy to make soft curves in paths, to avoid straight lines, to create a more permanent hard backbone or structure for gardens. If, on the other hand, I had an easy access to many and varied stones as I now do to bricks, then likely I'd use the rocks, while consigning bricks to second-choice status, wood being in third place. Hence, my first considerations are function and path of least resistance; artistic touches are a secondary embellishment. Similarly, I let my idiosyncratic likes and dislikes play a major role; what the public thinks is secondary.
    Consider how I prefer curves to straight lines. Well, some people prefer bright colors to dark, or bold textures to delicate ones. Who is to say what is best? Neither is always; the situation always varies. When I was a young child I drew, painted, molded clay and did similar things. Now, nonetheless, instead of being an artist, a painter, a sculptor, etc., I am a communicator who specializes in plants. Why did I develop this way? What makes some people give up security, peer approval, loved ones, and whatnot -- to pursue art? Many do. Passion of music, drama, or any other arts will often keep people energetic, enthusiastic, healthy, yet withal they're literally "starving artists."
    It is poignant that some of us view a few cherries in a basket as food, while others see the form, color, light and "picture" in such a way that they hunger to reflect their inspiration, to share their vision of wonder or joy. Then, viewers will variously commend, condemn, or be neutral to the artistic rendition, according to their personal receptiveness. When people taste new foods, hear new music, meet new people -- they respond similarly in positive, negative or intermediate fasion.
    How come some art is judged great and timeless, and other's trash? What if "nothing's good or bad but thinking makes it so?" This discrepancy, I believe, is mostly due to a shared consensus of learned opinion. While I cannot recognize first-rate wine, paintings or dance from merely above-average quality, others with more expertise can. Just as I have developed a critical eye for words, and can make subtle distinctions in plant judgments which are beyond the ability to conceive in unexperienced minds. So, everyone has an opinion and can love or loathe accordingly, but "great art" is work which most experienced judges acclaim as exceptional.
    Science is relatively inflexible, and to the degree possible is just facts, experiments, uninfluenced by subjectivity. But art is quite the contrary. It is apparent to anyone who has done mathematics, written fiction, built anything, cooked, played music, filed tax returns, etc. -- that different mental processes make us feel differently. The work we love is a joy; our disliked tasks cause stress. I enjoy writing fiction immensely, but my nonfiction has always had the upper hand because I think it pays better, helps society more, and offers intellectual challenge in a way that I seem to thirst after.
    It is important to be able to grasp the differences between science and art, and to know what strengths each has, what relations they have with one another. We all know the stereotypical engineer types who are made out as "heartless brains." Then in contrast there are the "bimbo" characters who gush, feel, enthuse, and hug, but seem unfit for activity requiring discipline, patience, analysis or critique. I'm sure I'd rather be half proficient in both art and science, than master of only one of them.
    Art is of immense value. It amuses us, as when we read the comics, see whimsical sculptures, or attend comedy movies or plays. It relaxes our tensions and helps us banish stressful business to the back of our minds. It stimulates our senses, and often our intellect or emotions as well. It helps us develop an awareness of our own stylistic preferences, so we can decorate our houses in a way most apt to give us peace and pleasure; to dress as we're most comfortable; to play such music as addresses our needs.
    Finding whether we prefer film, dance, drama, sculpture, painting, music, architecture, gardening, handicrafts -- is only learned with time, and often by sampling a great deal. Life is a big buffet of choices, and the more one tastes, the better one eats. I am not "conversant" or have not acquired a taste for, say, modern dance or for zen gardening. That's not to say I think those subjects unworthy of my attention. But there are too many things competing and we all must narrow down our activities to a manageable few.
    I am grateful that in high school I was forced to attend drama class. It has, indirectly, resulted in my developing a love of play-going, and who knows but I might've not developed this appreciation until much later -- if at all -- unless I had taken that class. How many other major human activities might I be missing-out on by not having been exposed to them when I was receptive? In high school I also took golf class. It greatly increased my understanding and appreciation of the game, yet didn't make me an avid golfer. Still, I'm glad I took the class. If I raise children I want to expose them to a wide range of arts, sports, sciences and other activities, to ensure their being in a good position to choose whichever pursuits they're keenest about.
    Here is not the place to worry about definitions of what is an "art" or a science. We hear of political science and the art of politics, and of gardening being a combination of art and science. I'm content with casual definitions here. If I was forced to lead a life without either an artistic sense or a scientific outlook, I'd choose to go without science first. After all, we necessarily live according to scientific laws anyway, but our joy in life (even be it love of science), comes from the artistic temperament.
    To scientific interpretation or viewpoint, the Grand Canyon is erosion manifested, and Mount Rainier is an extinct (or slumbering) volcano. A vulture, or a two-year old human, or a robot, can look at the canyon or mountain and be quite unmoved. Yet an adult human with an artistic sensitivity will be in awe of nature's grand scale, will see beauty in the scene, and will be uplifted emotionally. An artistic rendition, be it a painting or even a postcard, will later reawaken from our memory a delicious taste of the spectacle. So there is fundamental value, even a human need, for arts. Reading, writing and arithmetic are all indispensable, but without art are sort of like food without flavor -- it might have nutrition but it won't be enough to thrive on.