Faith & Reason: True Creativity Is Not the Same as Problem-Solving ; Now We Have Not One, but Three Inquiries into Foot-and-Mouth Disease. but Will Any of Them Address the Really Awkward Questions?
Atkins, Margaret, The Independent (London, England)
IN THE end, the Government has decided upon not one inquiry into the outbreak of foot-and-mouth, but three - one to look at its own handling of the epidemic, one to review the science and one to consider the future of farming and food. There will be plenty of questions for the three inquiries to ask. But will they overlook the most important?
Foot-and-mouth disease has indeed been a tragedy; but ought we to see it as a problem? Dorothy L. Sayers would have said no. In her book about God, The Mind of the Maker, which is quite as excellent as her detective novels, she argues that we ought to stop treating life as a series of problems, and instead attempt to deal with it creatively. Creativity, as she knows well from experience, is a quite different thing from problem-solving.
Detective novels work precisely because the "problem" is artificially designed. It must be neatly, completely and always soluble. Once the story is over, there must be no loose ends: we can put the book away satisfied. We discover the answer, though, just because the author was careful to set the question so that we could solve it according to the rules. Real life is not like that.
We are treating foot-and-mouth disease, as we treat most social issues, as a problem. That, indeed, is why the scourge has turned into a disaster. We decided in advance what question to ask: how can we eradicate it? Politically, we have allowed ourselves to ask nothing else. We assumed, with no good reason, that there was a single and complete solution, and that when we found it, we would be able to drop the "problem" as casually as we can lay Sherlock Holmes aside when we get to the last page. We were wrong; yet we continue in the relentless pursuit of "solutions" that only deepen the tragedy.
Addicts of problem-solving should stick to reading murder stories; when they turn to politics they are likely themselves to become the killers. Nor is that a coincidence, for the swiftest "solution" is to remove the messiness of life in one stroke, as the hasty have done ever since Alexander used his sword to deal with the Gordian knot. The artist must be more patient, because he or she respects the nature of his materials: "I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free," was how Michelangelo once put it. Dorothy Sayers was a little more prosaic: "The only way of `mastering' one's material is to abandon the whole conception of mastery and to co-operate with it in love." Artists, in other words, see something as it actually is, not as they wish that it was. When they see a sick sheep, they remember first that it is an animal, …
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Publication information: Article title: Faith & Reason: True Creativity Is Not the Same as Problem-Solving ; Now We Have Not One, but Three Inquiries into Foot-and-Mouth Disease. but Will Any of Them Address the Really Awkward Questions?. Contributors: Atkins, Margaret - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: August 11, 2001. Page number: 7. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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