As someone who grew up loving words, math never quite fit in my brain.
While sentences filled even the smallest crevices of my mind with ease, numbers haphazardly jammed themselves into random spaces, making my brain feel uneven and unfocused.
When I was in middle school, my mom came home one night to find me crying over a poor grade on a math test. I told her that I did not understand why I had to learn math when I would never use most of it.
After letting me cry my anger out, she told me that math did matter, but not in the way that I thought. She said that the reason why I struggled with math so much is because math relies on logic, while words and other arts rely on creativity. Even though creativity came more naturally to me than logic, she explained that I needed both to succeed and to grow.
“Logic feeds the mind, but art feeds the soul.”
Her words resonated with me, but they also confused me. Until that point, I had thought of the mind as a concrete concept and the soul as an abstract idea. I could understand how logic sharpens my mind, but what good could art do for my soul, if it even existed?
Last week, my English professor held class in the university art gallery. After allowing us to view the different exhibits, she told us to select one art piece and write a story based off of the work.
I chose to take a logical approach to the assignment. I decided to create a basic story in advance, choose a random piece, and somehow give it a cameo role in the final product. Quick, easy, and simple.
While my mind rushed to add the final touches to my preconceived story, my feet abruptly stopped in front of a painting. The painting was modest, depicting only an arrangement of autumn-colored flowers against a gold background.
The painting did not draw attention like the more dramatic works in the gallery, but its hushed simplicity was the reason why I found it so alluring.
In a room full of screaming art, this piece emitted a whisper that only I seemed to hear, and I felt compelled to listen.
I spent the entire class in front of the piece, feverishly jotting down every story detail that I could. When the time was up, I was surprisingly reluctant to leave the painting behind. I had formed an artistic connection with the piece, for it had inspired me to create art of my own.
That day, I finally understood the second part of my mom’s words. Standing in front of that painting and writing my story felt like reading a good book, dancing in the rain, listening to waves crash on a beach and falling in love all at once. Looking at that piece of art, I felt my soul come to life.
The painting made me realize that the concept of a soul is not an abstract notion. One’s soul is the combination of experience, emotion and imagination that separates them from everyone else, and without it, we are no more evolved than any other species.
Soul is the flame of personality and individuality, and art is the fuel for the fire.
I still cannot stand math, but I appreciate its significance. Through math, science, and business, we have the logic that expands our minds. Thanks to my experience with the painting, I now also understand the importance of art. Arts and humanities fan the flames of creativity, which fuels the soul and help to develop individual personalities.
Together, logic and art drive innovation. Logic cannot generate ideas without art, and art cannot put ideas into motion without logic. Humans need both to succeed and to evolve, so we must remember to teach, honor, and celebrate them equally in all aspects of life.
In the end, my mom’s words have taught me two things. One, that my mom is always right, and two, that art does more good for me and for humanity than I will ever truly know.
For both, I am grateful.