When I was in high school, the Spanish education system required fifteen-year-old students to choose between three options: from then on, they would study Ciencias [Maths and Science subjects], Letras [Arts and Languages], or Mixtas [a mixture of the other two]. The decision was always ours, but we underwent a psychological evaluation to assess our capabilities. I went to see the mentor with a friend. She spent half an hour discussing options with her. Then, she looked at me and simply said: “You, Letras. It’s obvious”.
She did not tell me anything I did not already know. However, this was the 1990s, when computers and digital technology started to be indispensable in our lives. There was the (mis)perception that Ciencias was the future and Letras a relic. Choosing the second earned me some mockery from the school bully, but I had no other. Even nowadays, I am fluent in several languages, but I need a calculator for a simple sum. I believe that my inability to do Maths is provoked by the fact that I do not have a precise mind. For me, there is always more than one answer, always a “why?”, “why not?”, “what if?”.
Let’s explain it with the riddle of the Sphinx:
“In the ancient times, the entrance to Thebes was guarded by the Sphinx, a creature who had the face of a woman, the voice of a man, the claws of an eagle and the body of a lion. In order to enter, all the travellers had to answer the same riddle:
‘Which animal walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs in the afternoon and on three legs in the evening?’
If the travellers gave the wrong answer, the Sphinx ate them.”
If I had a Sciences mind, I would regard the Sphinx like a password – protected computer, which I need to access the next level. So, I would answer “man” and go on my way to Thebes. However, an Arts mind does not work like that. Just after Oedipus answered “man”, another traveller came by and said:
“Wait a second! There is another possibility. The answer to the riddle can be ‘woman’.”
“Are they not the same?” argued Oedipus.
“Yes, they are, but why are women still treated unequally?” the traveller answered.
Then, another traveller came and said:
“Shame on you, Sphinx! You have the face of a woman and the voice of a man. Did it not occur to you that “transgender” can be the answer?”
Oedipus and the two travellers engaged on a debate. They decided that the most inclusive answer would be “human”. Suddenly, another traveller spoke:
“Excuse me. When you say ‘human’, are you including all ethnicities?”
Before they had time to answer, another traveller appeared:
“Shame on you, Oedipus! Your own experience contradicts your answer. You became blind and used a cane when you were still young. You were walking on three legs in the afternoon. And were you not still human? What about wheelchair users? They do not walk as the Sphinx describes, but they are human.”
They were still deliberating, when a different traveller directly addressed the Sphinx:
“Where is your compassion? Why do you have to eat the travellers who do not answer right? Why do you not give them a second chance?”
Suddenly, another traveller stood next to this one:
“Compassion? Who gave you the right to eat people in the first place, Sphinx? Why do I have to bend to your authority? Who are you to tell me where can or cannot I go?”
The Sphinx was becoming smaller and smaller, when a last traveller appeared:
“Did you know that bibliographic sources differ on the riddle? Maybe we do not have to guess after all”.
With this, the Sphinx disappeared.
It could be argued that the Sciences traveller was the only one who actually entered Thebes. However, the Arts travellers widened the gate and, eventually, removed it. It is not that one was better than the others. They just pursued different goals.
P.S. I am conscious that there are more possible answers. I know that Sciences is more complex than this. Your “why?”, “why not?”, “what if?” are welcome.
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