As engineers, we are paid to be in our heads. We build beautiful conceptual gardens there. Gardens of abstraction and logic and order. Patterns and anti-patterns, hacks and arcana. Domain knowledge. A strong engineer must have a sharp mind.
Yet we also are aware that life doesn't happen in our heads. We sometimes want a vacation from the cold vault of binary logic, the constant problem finding and problem solving, and all of the anxieties and neuroses that arise when our thoughts and ideas are all we have.
Life happens out there, in the physical world. It's gorgeous out there, in the place where there's giant bodies of water that sway, and waffle cones filled with maple almond ice cream, and garlands made of daisies, and people we love. Even the most mundane corners of this world are incredibly beautiful, and more complex than any computer system.
There's a lot of messiness out there, too. It can be terrifyingly messy. Our minds become carapaces that protect us from the mess—and that keep us at a distance from beauty and love. Because to open yourself to the beauty, you must also open yourself to the mess.
The mess cannot be abstracted away, it must be confronted head-on. Our logical minds are feeble in the face of a world that is so squishy and sloppy and nuanced, where any available abstraction is a pigeonhole. The world defies our attempts to label and categorize the mess.
Reality is also a place where we have a body. The body is the source of intuition and emotion, leadership and empathy, sexiness and swagger. The body is where we find a sense of connectedness that transcends our everyday experience. The euphoria of love, the pleasure of serving others, and the great unknown that exists beyond what we can perceive or express with language and technology.
Lately I've been returning to my inner 6-year-old. The person I was before I got into computers. When I'm watching exercise videos in my living room and I'm jumping around doing pop squats and burpees, a little thrill rises in me from that 6-year-old Carl. The Carl who would run around on the playground simply because running around is fun.
We love artists because they never forgot that running around is fun. The artist's practice is rooted in the body. In this way, artists are the engineer's counterpart, and we have a lot to learn from them.
I'm a lifelong engineer and an aspiring artist. I'm dedicated to integrating the two.