Saturday, September 25, 2021

Fiery Organisms

"Just imagine ... that somewhere, in the cosmic vacuum, close to absolute zero, there are creatures nothing like us, let’s say a kind of metallic organism, that are conducting various experiments. Among others they succeed—never mind how—suffice it to say they succeed in synthesizing a living protein cell. A single amoeba. What will become of it? Of course, only just created, it will immediately fall apart, explode, but its remains will freeze, because in a vacuum, the water contained within it will boil and instantly change into steam while the heat of the protein transmutation will immediately irradiate.
There exists—so I am told—only one kind of life: the development of proteins that is familiar to us, divided into the realms of plants and animals. At temperatures removed from absolute zero, in barely three hundred small steps, evolution occurs, and its crowning glory is the human being. Only man and those like him can oppose the tendency prevalent throughout the Universe for chaos to grow. Yes, according to this statement, everything is chaos and disorder—the terrible heat inside stars, the walls of fire of galactic nebulae set alight by mutual penetration, the gas balls of suns; after all—say those sober, rational, and thus undoubtedly correct people—no device, no kind of organization, not even the smallest trace of it can appear in oceans of boiling fire; suns are blind volcanoes that spit out planets, while planets, exceptionally and rarely, sometimes create man—everything else is the lifeless fury of degenerate atomic gases, a swarm of apocalyptic fires shaking their prominences.
... think the Earth is a crumb of life within an ocean of nothingness. You think man is solitary, and has the stars, the nebulae, the galaxies as adversaries, as enemies. You think the only knowledge that can be obtained is the kind he has possessed and will continue to possess—man, the only creator of Order, endlessly threatened by a deluge of infinity that radiates distant points of light. But that is not the case. The hierarchy of active endurance is omnipresent. Anyone who so wishes may call it life. On its peaks, at the heights of energy arousal, fiery organisms endure. Just before the limit, at the point of absolute zero, in the land of darkness and of the final, hardening breath, life appears once more, as a weak reflection of that one, as its pale, dying memory—that is us. "

Stanislaw Lem (1921 - 2006)
"The Truth" in The Truth and Other Stories

Friday, September 24, 2021

Universal Causation

"But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages."

Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Energy Field

"Colors are not possessions;
they are the intimate revelations
of an energy field…
They are light waves with
mathematically precise lengths,
and they are deep,
resonant mysteries with
boundless subjectivity."

- Ellen Meloy (1946 - 2004)
The Anthropology of Turquoise

Friday, September 17, 2021


"When the healthy nature of man works as a whole, when he feels himself in the world as though in a great, beautiful, worthy, and precious whole, when his harmonious sense of well-being imparts to him a pure, free delight, then the universe, if it could experience itself, would, as having achieved its goal, exults with joy and marvels at the pinnacle of its own becoming and being."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1842)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Evanescent Beauty

"To the attentive eye,
each moment of the year
has its own beauty,
and in the same field,
it beholds, every hour,
a picture which was
never seen before, and
which shall never
be seen again."


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Wonderful Triangles

"The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"

- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Friday, September 10, 2021

Connecting With the Ineffable

"Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable.
Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself,
and see if we may not eff it after all.”
- Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001)

For dedicated readers of my blog, this entry will appear a bit out of the norm. For one thing it does not include any photographs taken by me; for another, I'm quoting an "Adams," but not one whose first name is Ansel. The diptych you see above contains two of my dad's acrylic paintings he completed in the spring of 2001, which (immediately after completing them) he called Premonition 1 and 2, respectively. And, as he commonly did with "new" work, he displayed them on my parents' living room's main wall; where they unceremoniously hung through 9/11. Today, Sep 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of that day, one that is simultaneously best forgotten and never forgotten. Unlike the families of the 2977 people who were killed that day (including 2606 at the World Trade Center), my family did not suffer the pain of losing any loved ones in that tragedy; though we believed for a time that my mom, who was 70 years old in 2001 and worked on the 91st floor of the second tower, was, using a favorite turn of phrase of hers, "a goner." Somehow, miraculously, she survived (you can read a bit of her story in the New Yorker Magazine - just search the page for "Ilachinski"), and eventually died almost exactly 16 years later, on Sep 9, 2017. Like so many other "survivors," my mom suffered gravely from "survivors guilt," anguishing to her last days over why she, an "old timer" (her words) lived when so many young people did not. My dad, who was at home in bed at their home on Long Island as events unfolded (and only a few months away from passing away from cancer a few months later) was too weak and riddled with pain-killers to know or assimilate much of what happened that day. After my mom finally made it back to their home close to midnight, she was startled - shocked is a better word (if I remember how my mom characterized it) - by "seeing" my dad's theretofore innocently but provocatively named "Premonitions" - still hanging quietly on their living room wall - transfigured into truly prophetic - albeit unrecognized - warnings; which is at least how my parents now interpreted them. For me, all these years later, these paintings are touchstone reminders of the mysterious rhythms and patterns that make up our universe; echoes of even deeper connections that special souls (such as my dad the artist) are sometimes able to forge with the ineffable. As memories of 9/11 flood my mind on this anniversary, I find solace in the art my dad bequeathed me (even these two "Premonitions"; you can see more of his work here), and the memory of so many happy years I still had to share with my mom. My prayers go out to those who were not so lucky.