So there’s science and there’s story, and then there’s story and science.
Whilst science aims to precisely tell us about all that is, human life is always far more chaotic than that. Somewhere in all the human chaos, though, we can find something beautiful, and science can help us make it more so. Each needs the other.
Yuval Noah Harari Writes about how, once upon a time, we only had story to to help us explore and theorise on life. These stories could look more to the past, forming into ways and beliefs and practice, and discouraging change.
Science looks at things differently, observations aren’t enough and it’s theories often aren’t proven for a long time:
‘Instead of studying old traditions, emphasis is now placed on our observations and experiments. […] Earlier traditions usually formulated their theories in terms of stories. Modern science uses mathematics.’*
Mercy is a fascinating study in humanness, emerging out of the chaos of what it means to be human. There’s no scientific theory or formula for mercy, or compassion, we know mercy involves physics, chemistry, and biology but these things are wrapped in a myriad of personal and cultural stories.
The reason I’m mentioning it is because I happened to also be reading Maria Popova this morning. Popova wants to secularise mercy, reclaiming it from religion, and exploring Anne Lamott‘s book Hallelujah Anyway as a means of doing this:
‘Mercy is the conscious choice to be kind when one can be cruel – without cruelty, there is no mercy.’**
Popova continues: we are capable of producing ‘myriad small spirited, begrudging tendencies by which we fall so woefully short of our ideal selves.** But that’s not the end of the story. Nassim Taleb points to the beauty that can emerge from flawed humanity:
‘Beauty is enhanced by unashamed irregularities; magnificence by a facade of blunder. […] Life’s beauty: the kindest act toward you in life may come from an outsider not interested in reciprocation.’^
Seth Godin reminds me that we whilst we may never be a right answer, we can learn from science that life is a process and it’s okay not to pretend – then we may find ourselves moving in the right direction.
‘Science is a process. It’s not pretending it has the right answer, it merely is the best process to get closer to that right answer.’^^
It’s never one or the other; it’s always about science and stories.