Why a blue flower?
“I yearn to see the blue flower I dreamed of. In my dream, it felt as though I was in some other world. For who–in the world where we live the rest of the time–would ever care so much about a flower?”
Heinrich von Ofterdingen, a novel by Novalis, 1799
The blue flower is a symbol from German philosophy. It stands for the fusion of science and art, long journeys across the world, and the pursuit of impossible dreams. First coined around 1790 by mining engineer, philosopher, and poet Novalis (a.k.a. Friedrich von Hardenberg), the blue flower represents the passions that don’t have a clear purpose in society. It is a spark of color that we can’t seem to forget, no matter how unrealistic or impractical it seems.
Novalis urges his readers not to give up on the blue flower, even it if seems out of place “in the world where we live the rest of the time.” Like Novalis, we live in a world driven by fast-paced, practical decisions. As in time at the start of the Industrial Revolution, we are experiencing a major transformation of society: unprecedented technology, new access to information and education, a different labor market, and a shift in global politics. It is a challenging time to pursue creative, unscripted paths — like culture, media, language, history, or philosophy.
Today, employers are increasingly calling for expertise in the skills taught by the humanities and arts: strong writing, critical thinking, the ability to understand actions on an ethical level, and the ability to navigate between complex, imperfect systems. But how do we get from that fascinating film course or unforgettable study-abroad to a role in which we can make an impact and contribute to innovation? The path to that blue flower is still being charted. As Novalis writes of his hero,
“some laughed at him. Others were silent. No one told him where to go. And yet, he kept walking.”
This project explores that path. After all, Novalis was once a salt mine engineer, but he is now remembered as one of Germany’s most important poets.