What I’ve Learned from Bones

So my in-laws are to thank for introducing me to Bones one of the nights Alaythia and I were at their house (back in our pre-St Louis, post-Seattle days, the last half of May).  I got slightly hooked on first viewing.  By the third show in a row, I was totally into it.  Though it’s not really the kind of show you can watch in excessive quantity (unlike, say, The Simpsons).  You start thinking you might find a skeleton in every park you visit, and we visit a lot of parks these days, so that’s a lot of suspected skeletons.

Bones and I tend to see the world pretty similarly: “If you can’t prove it to me, I don’t believe you.” I like the way she’ll exert herself to really get to the bottom of something, and not rest until she figures it out.  She tends to get made fun of by a few other characters on the show, but deep down, they respect that she won’t rest until she figures something out.

I think what you see in Bones and on the show is one of the main struggles of someone who is actively in scientific work.  Understanding any part of science takes a very deep, careful, methodical investment of time and energy, and really, brain space.  How do you do that in a way that still allows part of your brain to engage with the rest of the world?  How do you not compromise the way you approach a problem, and yet not lose sight of the people around you that are connected to that problem, or simply connected to your life?  I suppose this is a problem people in many fields of study or work would have, but perhaps scientific work is different in that it always involves a pursuit of knowledge.

The very essence of science is learning, synthesizing,and explaining things about the world.  Science can be overwhelming in that the more you learn, the more you realize just how complex everything about the world around us.  It becomes very difficult to know when to stop searching for an answer, when every answer leads to many more questions.  Yet I think the truly successful scientist (and here I’m not trying to imply I am one, or even that I am an actual scientist at this point), is one who can face an endless sea of questions, and remain curious.  To fail in science, in my opinion, is to deny that endless questions exist, or to become too overwhelmed with the endless questions to continue pursuing them.

I like Bones because she stays curious, and perseveres through the questions.  Granted, her problems and questions do seem to come to a tidy end every 41 minutes, but the reason she’s inspiring is that she doesn’t give up or take any easy answers.  At least not during her 41 minutes.

What I’m learning from Bones is that I have, and need to, learn many of the same lessons as Bones does.  Across episodes of the show, she begins to see that there are things that science isn’t the best, or only, answer to.  She realizes that there are times to give people a scientific explanation, and there are times to keep your mouth shut and smile sympathetically.  There are times it’s okay to trust your gut as all the evidence you need for a bit. There are times to know your place and keep to it, and not overstep your bounds and realm of authority.  There are times to challenge others to think in a new way, or to simply just think or think harder, and there are times to just let people be who they want to be.  There are times to work hard, and times to take a break.

Which is what I’ve been doing as I wrote this.

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