Last night a conversation emerged among a group of Djerassi residents about our feelings on cross-disciplinary interactions—especially between the arts and sciences. Each of us was chosen to be here due to our interdisciplinary background so it is not a surprise that we advocate interaction. Furthermore, there was general dissatisfaction with the current level of interaction we see in the fields in which we participate.
What is writing the story of one’s life if not a diagnostic exercise? We look at patterns, discard what’s irrelevant, and go through the old charts looking for early hints of trouble we’d once overlooked. The best diagnosticians see the whole picture, and within that picture discern connections that others have missed.
On Saturday I went on a morning run with fellow Djerassi resident and physicist Guillermo Munoz. As a result of a conversation about our respective fields of interest we decided to make a collaborative piece using music to explore the topic of quantum dots. I suggested that I would improvise some music which might sound like quantum dots and then ask him how to adapt it to better fit his own understanding. The idea was that the process of collaborative composition could be a tool for learning about this topic from him.
Early morning, 5:30am, cup of strong PG Tips in hand I step outside Middlebrook D and snap a picture of the landscape, writ-large, with my i-phone. The moon full, or almost full, up above the marine layer covering the pacific, pushing against the green-gold hills. But enough of that -- I start reading an interview between the nature artist Alfio Bonanno and John Grande (JG) for my project on the natural and synthetic in chemistry, underlining and jotting marginalia as I read: traces in the landscape, artifice, nostalgia, estrangement.
The art of doing nothing On arriving at Djerassi, I welcomed leaving productivity behind. I’d worked hard to jettison my usual obligations: teaching medical students, supervising residents, seeing patients and hardest of all to throw off, the editing tasks I normally do on a daily basis for our academy’s medical journal. So I was much reassured that I needed, while I was here for a delicious, unencumbered month, to do nothing.