Bipolar Thinking


Bipolar thinking could mean many things, but I refer to it as thinking with two poles, connecting art and science. let's call the poles the north and south poles since the earth can be used as a metaphor. At the north pole, we put down a flag labeled "mental concept." The art of abstraction, as with mathematical thinking, is to dwell near the north pole. At the north pole, representations involving the senses do not exist. One must walk in the direction of the south pole, which means in any direction, for more sensory experience. The term "abstract" is used in art as well, however, art relates to the senses and for pure abstraction found in mathematics, there is only thought. At the south pole, we have pure experience. Let me give an example from mathematics: the circle. We learn in mathematics that the circle is a concept, an idea and that anything you hear, touch, or see is not a circle-- it is a representation of the circle concept. This means that things drawn on paper, spoken, or writing the word "circle" are not circles. Where do you position yourself on the earth: do you inhabit the poles, or are you somewhere near the equator? Maybe you live in Iceland or Borneo? My suggestion is that we should be constantly walking between two poles without being overly attracted to either one. Every time I see an object that reminds me of a circle, I celebrate the uniqueness of that object, taking time to experience it. But then, I am drawn to the wonderful reduction, abstraction, and concept of circle--all of the experienced objects are identical near the north pole. This bipolar thinking is common at the lab because we are creating representations of math and computing concepts. Thankfully, we do not actually have to pack our snowshoes.