The art of programming

I'm sick of Tom Cruise. I have an instinctive dislike for people who swing the articles of their faith around like some mad Viking descending on a fog-shrouded Irish village.

I'm sick of Tom Cruise. I have an instinctive dislike for people who swing the articles of their faith around like some mad Viking descending on a fog-shrouded Irish village. You can't even avoid Mr. Cruise's latest bloviations, as online news organizations consider it to be headline-worthy. I'm going to have trouble watching "War of the Worlds," and I love sci-fi movies.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. In the course of giving in to the smurf-shaped demon that drives me to actually read this crud, I learned the reason Scientologists claim for spending so much effort attracting celebrities to their "cause:"

"A culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists."

"By example and through their art, they communicate to millions. Thus, by improving the lives of artists, great progress can be achieved to better the condition of society — for any artist with an increased ability to communicate, who is drug-free and has high moral standards, imparts a positive influence on many others."

Of course, they're not going after Joe the performance artist who does his thing with wetsuits and plastic gorilla masks by the train station in downtown Dallas, Texas, but why state the obvious. It just occurred to me that, in practice, most take an extremely narrow view of what constitutes "art."

I consider a good program to be "art." Granted, it's not "art" about which people in stylish clothes can debate whether it demonstrates the essential conflict between man and his inner raccoon. Unfortunately, the art of programming is only recognizable to people who have been trained to recognize it. It's like paintings made with ink that is only visible when wearing special glasses, except the glasses take years to build, and everyone must build their own glasses.

When I see a program that is well designed, that is loosely-coupled, and nicely laid out as a set of objects, I recognize it as beautiful. Though I'm not a hardware engineer, I've known a few, and they describe something similar when it comes to circuit board design.

In fact, I would suggest that the world is FULL of artists. It's just that not every artist uses a medium that is recognizable to anyone but those who work in that medium.

It's the efforts of those artists which drive human progress forward, in that the love of their craft drives the efficiency and productivity gains that have created our current level of technical sophistication. Which art matters more to humanity, the art which enables people with certain highly-symmetrical faces to earn vast quantities of money in return for having their picture taken (okay, I oversimplify), or the people who actually make the advances which improve the lot of humanity?

Sometimes you reach a destination by going in the opposite direction. That doesn't usually apply to driving a car (though it might if you're driving in Los Angeles), but it does in blog posts.

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