How Do You Scientifically Benchmark Art?


There are very few public figures I genuinely admire, but one of them is in town today.

Just saw on Instagram that Adam Savage had posted a beautiful photo of Pittsburgh. I’d heard we were getting a Maker Faire – I wonder if his visit is related to that? I hope so. Even though the things I make for Quirk & Flotsam are small, his 2012 speech to Maker Faire gave me the conceptual vocabulary to embrace my maker-identity and added to the enjoyment that making inherently gives. Like his box-guy on the porch when he was a kid, making makes me happy too. Sheer child-like delight sometimes.

I’ve been a huge fan of Mythbusters since before the word go…from a short Adam and Jamie did on another Discovery Channel show “Beyond Tomorrow” way back I-don’t-remember-when.

His “Food For The Eagle” speech to the Harvard Humanists as covered on boingboing.com resonates with me most of all. If anyone ever wanted to know where I’ve landed in this journey from childhood among ardent evangelicals to my current happy secularism, all they would have to do is read his speech. What he said. Plus he says it all with far more art, beauty, eloquence and genius than I ever could.

I know, I know – atheist is a weird thing for a Tarot Reader to be. Odd as it may seem, secularism and “Food for the Eagle” actually speaks to the heart of what I try to do here. “Modern” and “Oracle” seem contradictory. So does “art” and “science.” The bridge between the two is actually quite simple. The bridge between science and spirituality is simply art and nature. It is natural for us as a species to express emotion through art. Tarot is an art. Science objectively describes the universe. Art expresses how we subjectively experience that universe. Tarot is a natural expression of human experience, not the mouthpiece of some supernatural divinity.

I want to show how beautiful and useful and normal and natural Tarot can be. Which can be daunting given the reputation that Tarot and “psychics” have. The whole oogie boogie woo woo thing is dismissed out of hand as superstition because there is no proof it “works.” Works compared to what? How do you set a scientific benchmark for art? How do you quantify imagination and emotion?

For something to work, to be accurate, indeed to be scientific, it has to have some sort of camparitive baseline control. Mythbusters fans saw controls for experimental study being set six times a week. You know what a comparative benchmark is. But how do you set it for something as subjective as Tarot or art? How do you compare a Da Vinci to a Picasso to a Warhol to a Pamela Smith? How do you set the comparative control to evaluate art?

You don’t.

Art isn’t about scientific measurement, but it isn’t invalid. Art is essential. Creativity, imagination, making and communicating are all crucial to both art and science. Art and science both play a role in helping us live a higher quality life, be better people, and make better food for the Eagle when the time comes.

Tarot isn’t about benchmark accuracy. Tarot isn’t about predicting what your ex will do or what exactly will happen in the future. Tarot is like that part of science that lifts our imagination and shows us the wonder of what IS…not what we WISH the world to be. Tarot is like art because it touches our minds and hearts and evokes thoughts and feelings we otherwise might never have experienced.

Tarot helps the Eagle eat well. That why I do it.

And that’s how my admiration for Adam Savage’s work fits into this blog.

I doubt this will ever be directly communicated, but if I could send a thought out to the quantum entanglement of the universe it is this: Thank you for your words, ideas and inspiration. Welcome to the ‘Burgh Mr. Savage.