Friday Five - 2.17.17

"After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well." - Albert Einstein

I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but I didn't post a blog last Friday. I have been traveling a lot, working a lot, writing lots of papers, doing lots of reading, and I was just plain worn out. I've realized it's important to listen to my body as well as my heart -- if I need some rest, if I need to say no to something, or if I need to take a day off -- I'm getting better at trusting myself to do it. It's freeing to realize you don't have to do it all. I hope you can all take some time for yourself this week. But first, here are five things I'm interested in on this beautiful Friday:

National Park Fee Free Days

Did you know that most National Parks offer fee free days throughout the year?? And that one is THIS MONDAY! Well, now you do. In celebration of Presidents Day, many National Parks are fee free! This can save you anywhere from $10-$30 per park so it's a great time to go. I would recommend going to a lesser known park though (like the Great Sand Dunes!) to beat the fee free crowds. Other fee-free days of 2017 are:

- April 15-16 and April 22-25 - Celebrating National Park Week

- August 25 - National Park Service Birthday

- September 30 - National Public Lands Day

- November 11-12 - Veterans Day 

Read more here


Human Venn Diagram

Polymath. Renaissance woman. Jack of all trades — I prefer Human Venn Diagram. Let me explain. A polymath, like a renaissance woman, is someone who has many areas of knowledge or learning (i.e knows a lot about a lot). They’re someone who has expertise in thoroughly unrelated fields - the more unrelated the more polymathy. 

I’ve been called a renaissance woman, but as a math person, I describe it as a human venn diagram. A venn diagram is a diagram of interlocking circles that shows relations between sets or categories. As a human venn diagram I am the middle of seemingly unrelated circles: Social Sciences: I have a degree in Political Science and an (almost) MA in Sociology. STEM: I’m a math teacher! and art: I’m a painter, and (I guess) blogger. I don’t say this as if I’m so special and interesting — Like most people I work hard to be well-rounded and versed in the “seemingly unrelated” 

Our culture seems to value specialization — the “monomath” — but humans are natural polymaths. Maya Angelou explains it well: 

“I have a theory that nobody understands talent any more than we understand electricity. So I think we’ve done a real disservice to young people by telling them, “Oh, you be careful. You’ll be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.” It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I think you can be a jack-of-all-trades and a mistress-of-all-trades. If you study it, and you put reasonable intelligence and reasonable energy, reasonable electricity to it, you can do that.” 

Read more about polymaths here then listen to this great podcast about Human Venn Diagrams here

Right and Left Brain

You’ve probably heard the terms “left and right brain” a lot. Left brain dominant people are supposedly more logical while right brain dominant people are more creative. The only problem is that — this is a myth! There is no such thing as a left or a right brained person — we all use both sides of our brains. There is no scientific basis for the myth yet somehow it has pervaded culture. 

In fact, there is a lot of evidence that creativity and the standard "analytical" or "logical" professions are strongly linked. Take the study from Michigan State University. The research found members of the Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences were twice as likely to be engaged in an artistic pursuit than the average person, and that Nobel Laureates in Science were over three times as likely! 

Although there are different parts of the brain that are used in different types of thinking - it is not innate or as clear cut as pop culture would lead us to believe. People generally perform the roles they've been given or what they believe society expects them to be. Take this study on creativity from the University of Maryland: 100 students were asked to either imagine themselves as a "rigid librarian" or an "eccentric poet" then perform a creative task. Those simply asked to imagine themselves as more creative scored higher in creativity and divergent thinking - the free flowing, spontaneous, interconnected way of thinking that is associated with artists.

So don't put yourself into a box (or brain hemisphere) Divergent and convergent thinking are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they feed off each other! 

In the words of the flawless Neil deGrasse Tyson:

 "Don't call me left brained, right brained. Call me human..I'm disappointed with some aspects of civilization. One is our unending urge to bypass subtlety of character, thought, and expression and just categorize people ... If you want to understand who and what a person is, have a conversation with him. I'm 'brained.' Not right brained or left brained. I have a brain,"


Read more here and here

Outrage Fatigue

It's been almost a month since the inauguration and let's just say things have been... outrageous. Every day -- if not every hour -- there is some new piece of news that has the ability to outrage large sectors of people.

We are living in a real life Onion article.

John Oliver described it well on his show last week when he said, "it has been so busy it's gotten to the point that the most terrifying sound is your phone buzzing with a news alert." (too real)

Being in a constant state of outrage is not only exhausting, it's just not healthy. The outrage will wear you down and is likely to make you feel like you are powerless. Consider this quote from Krista Tippett (host of On Being - great podcast go listen now)

 “I think there is such a thing as outrage fatigue. … Because statistics like that and numbers like that, scenarios like that, are as prone to make people throw up their hands and say, well, then, you know, I can’t do anything anyway."

So what can we do? I read a great article by Arianna Huffington last week that put it into perspective nicely. She writes that, 

"The goal of any true resistance is to affect outcomes, not just to vent. And the only way to affect outcomes and thrive in our lives, is to find the eye in the hurricane, and act from that place of inner strength.

It’s the centered place Archimedes described when he said “give me a place to stand and I shall move the world.” It’s the place from which I imagine Judge James Robart issued his historic order to reverse Trump’s executive order on refugees. And it’s the place from which Viktor Frankl, who lost his pregnant wife, parents and brother in the Holocaust and spent 3 years in concentration camps, could write, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom.”

I really recommend reading the rest of the article here for actionable steps to prevent outrage fatigue.


The Courage to be a Hummingbird

While I was researching outrage fatigue, I stumbled upon a parable by Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai about having the courage of a hummingbird. When everything seems to be going against us it can be difficult to see the change you are making in the world. We need to see ourselves as a hummingbird - small and insignificant, but doing the best that they can. Watch the clip from the film Dirt! here:


Happy Friday :)