{the pleasure of finding things out}


“I don’t see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish Academy decides that this work is noble enough to receive a prize -- I’ve already got the prize. The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observations that other people use it -- those are the real things.”
- Richard Feynman
When I read this quote in “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out,” a collection of short writings and interviews by Richard Feynman I picked up yesterday, I felt the sentiment transcended his own thoughts on winning the Nobel Prize in Physics to really describe anyone exploring the unknown because they need to, not for fame or prizes or recognition, but because they genuinely enjoy it. That I would expect anything less from my favorite physicist is laughable and something I’m reminded of with each book of his I pick up or re-read.

Feynman worked on the Manhattan Project, came up with the theories of quantum physics and nanotechnology, taught, played practical jokes, and -- here’s the best part -- explained Einstein’s theories better than Einstein (this isn’t just a saying; Einstein actually asked him to come down and explain his theories during a lecture). He took the world of physics and created a conversation a seven-year-old girl in Chicago could understand and unlocked that wild, seeking spirit in her.


And I think, out of everything I’ve accomplished and will accomplish, all the paintings I create and journal pages I work on, there is nothing that can ever match with that pleasure that comes with pushing the envelope, trying something new, and figuring it out for myself.

Art has become a laboratory of discovery for me, a compulsion that rises in me each day to try something new. And my ideas usually come to me in that form. “What if I used the binder part from an old planner to make my own little 3-ring binder to journal in?” “What if I embroidered through paper?” “What if I made a cover out of canvas instead of book board?” All my ideas and projects have come as personal challenges, me sitting there and deconstructing what is and reconstructing it in my own way.

I’ve never been a quiet person. As a child -- and now, as an adult -- I pestered my mother with so many questions, other parents wondered if they could stay sane with a child as inquisitive as me. And these weren’t easy questions, but how-does-the-world-work queries that my mother sometimes didn’t know the answers to. I’ve always been like this. I want to know how things work, the history of words I hear, process and method and where I can find the answers. I read books on chemistry and physics to answer questions like, “Why is there a warning on the side of my Diet Coke?” “How can we time-travel (answer: we don’t. My favorite novel on the idea, Timeline, is based on the quantum theories of Feynman, and written by one of my favorite writers, Michael Chriton -- the perfect merging of literary talent and science)?”


It’s only natural, then, that these inclinations would spread to my art. And in this respect, I’m glad my background isn’t formal, art-wise. I don’t have any preconceived ideas or proper education. There are no opinions of art teachers or what is right and wrong coming at me from the pages of an art history book. And while sometimes I feel these gaps when trying to figure something out, I think I’m better for their absence because I can chart my own path and, well, find my bliss.

G out there and figure things out. Use what inspires you. Try a new tool or stamp with an empty paper towel roll (note: it looks pretty awesome!). Take a moment to pause and look at things in a new way -- deconstruct them and make them your own. Don’t be limited by what you learned in school or what the world has told you is the right way. Enjoy what you’re doing.

So the next time you’re browsing the internet or reading your favorite magazines and find yourself wishing for the popularity of your favorite artists or perhaps the talent you think you lack, think back to the words at the head of this blog post -- that there is nothing more enjoyable or blissful that finding things out, kick-starting that drive of discovery. And if you ever do begin to be noticed, going online and finding you’re inspiring others to paint or draw or discover -- that is worth more than all the magazine articles or classes or blog stats in the world.