Atrophy of Imagination in a Scientist (by Charles Dickens)


The Brain of the Artist. By Donna Skinner. At Donnaskinner.com
 
In the edition of 1966 of George Ford and Sylvere Monod of Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, there are Dickens´ comments and letters on the composition of this novel.
I have selected the one on page 311, called ¨Charles Darwin. Atrophy of Imagination in a Scientist¨ to reflect about our changes in the ¨higher tastes¨, as Dickens calls the sentiments related to arts. He is not specific about architecture, but the reflection is also valid in our field. Personally, I enjoyed looking at great international architectural projects in the magazines, and now, I prefer to read about urban morphology, massive migrations, urban  tissue reconstruction, and whatever you see in this blog. I don´t think that one loses the higher tastes, but along the years, our mind could be focused on different subjects that are part of our preoccupations. I prefer to produce rather than looking at captivating images, but I´ll never refuse the pleasure of listening some music, reading a good book, enjoy a good painting and why not a good meal.
Dickens reproduces a couple of paragraphs from The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (1876,1958), pp. 138-139 and then he writes his thoughts as follows:


Going out of my mind. By Linda Carmel
 
Still Life with Brain. By Sergio Sericolo.
 
¨….I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond I, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music.- Music generally sets me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure…..¨.
¨This curious and lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subject interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organized or better constituted than mine, would not I suppose have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry or listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied could thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature¨.
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