Monday, August 27, 2012

Fundamental truths of building things

Sometimes when you are building something it feels like youre uncovering structures that always existed.  Things that are fundamental truths that were there before you and will be there after for others to enjoy.  Like math; prime numbers, Fibonacci, the golden ratio.  I think this is how the structure a bit of code can look beautiful.  How the structural simplicity of an arch eliminating tensile stresses and resolving them into compression can be pleasing to the eye.  I find it in the bending of a bow and the flight of an arrow.  They feel solid, atomic (non-reducible), and elegant.  When you get to the point where things cant be any simpler, that's when you've made it all the way.  Unfortunately, we don't always make it that far in the real world, there are trade offs; but it stands as an admirable goal and hints toward the existence of a higher order of things being there beyond just us.

One of my favorite paintings, Clairvoyance, is a self portrait of the artist Ren√© Magritte sitting at an easel, looking at an egg while painting a picture of a bird with its wings extended. The title translates to "Perspicacity" which means: Acuteness of perception, discernment, or understanding or keen vision. The meaning of the painting is indicated by the title. The egg will become a bird. The artists see what it will become. In the eye of the artist, he already sees the bird. Through understanding of the laws of the Universe, the artist knows that the egg will become a bird; that it is already a bird.  There's something to be said for having that clairvoyance about what things can be.  In the case of building things, the egg needs our help to hatch.  So we roll up our sleeves to do battle in the war of art and overcome the resistance holding us back.