Here's one of my poems:
What's my great fear?
I'll tell you; come near.
To lay down in death
with so much left.
Passion not spent -
Oh cowardly regret!
For fear of others?
The thousand deaths.
I'm afraid to die
With no twinkle in my eye
To pass meagerly by
Yet hidden inside.
To walk through life
Not truly alive
And to pass in the night
With an unfelt "goodbye".
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Two weekends ago I did a wine and painting class. They basically blow up a picture of your pet, greyscale it, and put it on a canvas. Using some guidance and some help from the instructor you paint your pet (while enjoying delicious wine of your choosing).
I've been heads-down in a full-stack project for months and haven't had a creative outlet and it was very difficult for me to get started with this. I approached it like I did with my programs looking for exact inputs and parameters as to how to go about painting. It was very frustrating because I was falling behind the rest of the class and it looked terrible.
At some point I figured out I just needed to "let go" and start painting and trying out different things. I experimented and ended up with something that wasn't perfect but I was very happy with. It's on my wall in my office in fact.
I realize that I need these types of exercises to make my mind more plastic. Being so rigid for so long I feel really stresses me out and that releases like this are needed to let the pressure blow out. It takes things like this to get remind me that life really is ambiguous and not nearly perfect like my programs and dev ops processes.
It's a well-known kind of drawing exercise, probably popularized by the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and the idea is to cut off the rationally interpreting part of the mind and encourage you to see directly and just kind of directly connect your hand to your visual perception.
Yeah, it does feel like a way to let go. It's very fun, and often turns out weirdly brilliant absurd portraits. Try it at parties! I've found that kids find it very fun too.
I like the distinction when used to denote different modes of one brain. Barbara Oakley talks about them as "focused" vs. "diffused" modes. There are moments of high-presure analysis and low-pressure creativity.
The distinction helps to leverage these modes in solving problems.
I can't (i.e. generally don't like to) paint, and generally don't like wine, and I still think that's an awesome idea. Just enough structure that those without skill won't be put off, and lubricant to get people to open up a bit.
To expand a bit on my comment: One of the main problems I hit, with anything not 'rational' is the fact that I endeavour to do things 'correctly'. If I don't get it 'right', then I'm obviously not trying hard enough or doing it properly - it's hard to settle down with something subjective and not worry.
Having said that, poetry is one thing I can do. Or at least, something I enjoy writing and for some reason don't worry about whether it's 'right'.
My kids (they are adults) drag me to Shakespeare plays which I usually dread the thought of it in advance. I usually have a great time because of the twists and turns.
I don't draw often because I could get consumed with it. I an analytic, program, do system integration and lead a moderately high performing team. A few years ago I took an art class and realized that drawing is easier than you think if you see it as a journey from bad to better. I can't wait till I retire to get really practiced at it. Then painting is next. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Writing metered poetry that does not sound "stiff" is particularly challenging. I like how this one came out:
I would not mind floating downstream;
End up among the fish and whales.
Of the ocean waters, dark and deep,
I’m not afraid, for I do know
That, once you’ve lived among the corals,
The muddy currents, pebbles and rocks,
And parlous contours of the stream
Against whose tide you’d rather swim
Are banes you’ll gladly leave behind;
For deep at sea you’re not confined
By rocks and edges that grind and rasp–
The river’s water may be sweet,
But just as sweet, the river’s shallow;
I’d rather down its torrent follow,
Follow to the salted sea.”
(At this you quickly sipped your tea)
“Yes, in the sea I’ll freely trace
The peaceful ebbs of open space,
More free than any shallow stream;
As free as logic in a dream.”
Again you sipped, and leaned, and laughed,
Then played a moment with your scarf;
And I suspect you did agree.
I have a few more writings of different types at https://noamswebsite.wordpress.com/category/poems-and-fictio... :)
I miss writing! I think after this startup thing, if it's successful, I'll take some time to write again. I'm probably very rusty!
And it's incredibly challenging. Writing something meaningful and lyrical can be as much of a brain workout as designing a complex recursive algorithm. I've no qualms about placing Shakespeare under the same category of genius as Newton or Gauss.
It's kind of a shame that today the two worlds seem so separate... both sides are poorer for it.
I also know, anecdotally, that I am somebody who struggled with "traditional" upper math, yet found the logical thinking required for programming courses appealing. Sometimes, I wonder whether there aren't a large group of "not computer people" or "not math people" (not all, but a subset) who just haven't been exposed to it in a way that lets them realize its similarities to things they ARE good at.
“Yes, in the sea I’ll freely trace
The peaceful ebbs of open space,
More free than any shallow stream;
As free as logic in a dream.”
A lot has been written about the rhyme of “What immortal hand or eye / could frame thy fearful symmetry?”.
Long story short, these words were probably pronounced with the same final diphthong [əi] in Blake’s time, or they had been pronounced that way recently enough (the past century or so) that it was still accepted as a rhyme. Poetry often relies on somewhat old-fashioned language to fit the meter and sense of a piece.
>“Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” the American poet Emily Dickinson instructed herself
Do you look at the universe in Engineering / CompSci terms and frameworks? That's not a normal method of interpreting reality, but due to our context we extend it via our jargon and experience. Can you consider future life choices framed by a meat-algo tempered by back-propagation? What does that mean (to you?).
Half of the issue with the sciences/engineering is that a sense of absolute correctness and process is drilled into the student over a few years. The code you write may be pretty, understandable and modular but look at this benchmark. Scrap it, you're wrong according to this measure (excluding any others such as future maintenance, interop requirements, etc). There is freedom to solve a problem in a unique way, but the path there is fairly railroaded, although this is where programming gets creative. Save for end results, creative/flexible/nonlogical/associative thought has little place here.
I worked on a project a few weeks ago called BlackBox that explores this Engineering/Art space (an arbitrary divide or synthesis, lines are handy alright?). I'm a fine arts painter and while the meat has been loosening up slowly, the conceptual "baggage" of my Engineering context follows me. Analysis, Analysis, Preplan, Observe, Direct relation, Justification, Analysis, Blank Canvas, Paralysis. When I'm with fellow Artists what amazes them is my ability to systematically break a problem into smaller manageable bits, yet still keeping them non-modular. This baggage cannot simply be shed, it's part of the identity and story of SuperPaintMan/BlackBox so I use it as an arbitrary line in the sand. Fine Art / Engineering (What that means is a exploratory process).
Associative thinking is a strange creature, trusting the non-justifiable conclusions and straws we grasp allows our works to breathe in new and innovative ways. My line for having gone to far is opening a bakery whose principal ingredient is engine oil. [ https://xkcd.com/452/ ]
I met a guy who had a stroke and as a result of it he loosed a lot of his brain capacity.
He was learning spanish, learning about computers, learning french, writing a book, doing kayak, running, hiking... everyday.
He told me... every second of kayak I do; I'm kayaking running away from death.
He was conscious on how this helped his brain, to gain plasticity and allow other parts of his brain to supply for the loosed capabilities.
One of my favorite poems is Invictus by William Earnest Henley, so I tried reading a lot more of his poems, but they all seemed like a chore.
Can't stand musicals either.
I think for people with good rational abilities it's tempting to think that we can logic our way through all of our internal (meaning, emotion, relationships) problems the way we can with external (business, financial, engineering) problems. It doesn't work, and the tools provided by both the humanities and spiritual traditions do work, marvelously.
 When approached pragmatically, rather than dogmatically. Dogmatically religious people seem to suffer from as much or more angst than anyone.
I've taken to writing a lot of poetry lately as a way to process my feelings and it has been very helpful.
I actually recently read the book How Music Works by David Byrne and I enjoyed reading his account of one of his creative processes. He said that he often begins by coming up with a vocalization, grunts or hums or breaths, that fits into a certain rhythmic pattern, even though it has no linguistic meaning at that point.
He'll work to sharpen it, refine it, all without even trying to add words. Then, after getting that basic guttural rhythm down, he will begin to search for words that fit into it.
This kind of syllabic constraint also reminded me of Oulipo, of which I've been a long-time admirer.
Anyway, I started doing the same thing, and what I've been amazed with is the way the syllabic constraints cause you to sculpt and shape words and sentences that you sort of didn't even consciously realize were inside yourself.
Just a quick example, I came up with the idea to have stanzas with a syllable structure (for each line) of 3, 3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 8. I was actually sitting in my computer chair moving my shoulders to the 3-3-4-4 part and even drew a sort of bastardized Morse code thing on a post-it note to make sure I didn't forget it. I also felt like I wanted a longer line at the end of the stanza, because I couldn't see how continuing the 3-3-4-4 pattern could reach anything that verbally felt "conclusive" -- if that makes any sense (it probably doesn't).
At any rate, here  is the poem I came up with out of that experiment (warning: I'm not a poet, and this is totally amateur, but it was still enjoyable to write):
In my hand
made of sand
mass and weight
and the broken fragments of slate.
Now tell me why do I ache for
that which I don't know?
In my mind
fruit and rind
fall away from
trees on fire.
time by land
by the darkened lines of my hand.
one who I don't know?
But do I really ache for
What do I really ache for
can my kind ever know?
Is it the chance to know her
or the chance to know me?
 < http://suitdummy.blogspot.com/2016/07/ache4.html >
Many of the phrases from the poem were not ideas that I rationally or consciously accessed. The two stanzas are about the way that I feel this sort of electric reverberation of loss over some relationship experiences, and that it sometimes feels like a devastated landscape inside of myself. But I think if I had sat down to write that directly, instead of letting it just kind of fall into the framework of the syllable constraints, I would have sounded more like the emo kids from South Park (err, maybe I do anyway).
Tempt me no more for
I Have known the lightning's hour,
The poet's inward pride,
The certainty of power.
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Give me truths;
For I am weary of the surfaces,
And die of inanition. If I knew
Only the herbs and simples of the wood,
Rue, cinquefoil, gill, vervain and agrimony,
Blue-vetch and trillium, hawkweed, sassafras,
Milkweeds and murky brakes, quaint pipes and sun-dew,
And rare and virtuous roots, which in these woods
Draw untold juices from the common earth,
Untold, unknown, and I could surely spell
Their fragrance, and their chemistry apply
By sweet affinities to human flesh,
Driving the foe and stablishing the friend,--
O, that were much, and I could be a part
Of the round day, related to the sun
And planted world, and full executor
Of their imperfect functions.
But these young scholars, who invade our hills,
Bold as the engineer who fells the wood,
And traveling often in the cut he makes,
Love not the flower they pluck, and know it not,
And all their botany is Latin names.
The old men studied magic in the flowers,
And human fortunes in astronomy,
And an omnipotence in chemistry,
Preferring things to names, for these were men,
Were unitarians of the united world,
And, wheresoever their clear eye-beams fell,
They caught the footsteps of the SAME. Our eyes
And strangers to the mystic beast and bird,
And strangers to the plant and to the mine.
The injured elements say, 'Not in us;'
And haughtily return us stare for stare.
For we invade them impiously for gain;
We devastate them unreligiously,
And coldly ask their pottage, not their love.
Therefore they shove us from them, yield to us
Only what to our griping toil is due;
But the sweet affluence of love and song,
The rich results of the divine consents
Of man and earth, of world beloved and lover,
The nectar and ambrosia, are withheld;
And in the midst of spoils and slaves, we thieves
And pirates of the universe, shut out
Daily to a more thin and outward rind,
Turn pale and starve. Therefore, to our sick eyes,
The stunted trees look sick, the summer short,
Clouds shade the sun, which will not tan our hay,
And nothing thrives to reach its natural term;
And life, shorn of its venerable length,
Even at its greatest space is a defeat,
And dies in anger that it was a dupe;
And, in its highest noon and wantonness,
Is early frugal, like a beggar's child;
Even in the hot pursuit of the best aims
And prizes of ambition, checks its hand,
Like Alpine cataracts frozen as they leaped,
Chilled with a miserly comparison
Of the toy's purchase with the length of life.
She was a bit surprised at my choice of words (we were basically in agreement on the main topic, but the moment I said "Rational" she reacted badly) because in her experience "rational" is almost a bad word, because (according to her) it is banded around (by men) to belittle their counterpart in a discussion.
I told her that I had just finished an online course on IA, and therefore I meant "rational" strictly in the sense of "rational agent" as per Wikipedia: a rational agent is an agent that has clear preferences ... and always chooses to perform the action with the optimal expected outcome for itself from among all feasible actions.