Saturday, April 04, 2020

Quantum Objects


"Quantum objects present us with a choice of languages, but it’s too easily forgotten that this is precisely what it is: a struggle to formulate the right words, not a description of the reality behind them. Quantum objects are not sometimes particles and sometimes waves, like a football fan changing her team allegiance according to last week’s results. Quantum objects are what they are, and we have no reason to suppose that ‘what they are’ changes in any meaningful way depending on how we try to look at them. Rather, all we can say is that what we measure sometimes looks like what we would expect to see if we were measuring discrete little ball-like entities, while in other experiments it looks like the behavior expected of waves of the same kind as those of sound travelling in air, or that wrinkle and swell on the sea surface. So the phrase ‘wave–particle duality’ doesn’t really refer to quantum objects at all, but to the interpretation of experiments – which is to say, to our human-scale view of things."

-  Philip Ball (1962 - )

Friday, April 03, 2020

Frozen Thoughts


"Bowman was aware of some changes in his behavior patterns; it would have been absurd to expect anything else in the circumstances. He could no longer tolerate silence; except when he was sleeping, or talking over the circuit to Earth, he kept the ship's sound system running at almost painful loudness. / At first, needing the companionship of the human voice, he had listened to classical plays--especially the works of Shaw, Ibsen, and Shakespeare--or poetry readings from Discovery's enormous library of recorded sounds. 

The problems they dealt with, however, seemed so remote, or so easily resolved with a little common sense, that after a while he lost patience with them. / So he switched to opera--usually in Italian or German, so that he was not distracted even by the minimal intellectual content that most operas contained. This phase lasted for two weeks before he realized that the sound of all these superbly trained voices was only exacerbating his loneliness. But what finally ended this cycle was Verdi's Requiem Mass, which he had never heard performed on Earth. The "Dies Irae," roaring with ominous appropriateness through the empty ship, left him completely shattered; and when the trumpets of Doomsday echoed from the heavens, he could endure no more. / Thereafter, he played only instrumental music. 

He started with the romantic composers, but shed them one by one as their emotional outpourings became too oppressive. Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, lasted a few weeks, Beethoven rather longer. He finally found peace, as so many others had done, in the abstract architecture of Bach, occasionally ornamented with Mozart. / And so Discovery drove on toward Saturn, as often as not pulsating with the cool music of the harpsichord, the frozen thoughts of a brain that had been dust for twice a hundred years."

- Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Towards Silence


"Somewhere in the
onrush of everydayness
I lost track of myself.
Now I lie beside this chaste sea
watching a skyful of sun, clouds,
and birds sailing towards silence.
Music enters the afternoon,
weaves the air then gently falls
on me with the uncertainty of rain.
Suddenly all things beneath the sand
are moving with the restless wind.

Preoccupied with the perishable day,
I am deaf to yesterday's churning
with its graveclothes and honors.
All I want to hear, or feel, is music,

So, I will remain by this partisan sea,
running without moving,
shedding the thick skin of doubt,
listening to the sky sing, watching--
still waiting to bring myself
to this place where I should arrive."

- Gordon Parks (1912 - 2006)

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Uncalculating Mind


"Whatever evaluation we finally make of a stretch of land, however, no matter how profound or accurate, we will find it inadequate. The land retains an identity of its own, still deeper and more subtle than we can know. Our obligation toward it then becomes simple: to approach with an uncalculating mind, with an attitude of regard. To try to sense the range and variety of its expression—its weather and colors and animals. To intend from the beginning to preserve some of the mystery within it as a kind of wisdom to be experienced, not questioned. And to be alert for its openings, for that moment when something sacred reveals itself within the mundane, and you know the land knows you are there."
- Barry Lopez (1945 - )

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Peculiar and Hypnotic


"It's peculiar and hypnotic,
the way you stare
and kind of start thinking
when you're watching
something which is still."

- Sam Taylor-Johnson (1967 - )

Monday, March 30, 2020

Mysterious Encounter


"Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am."

- Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Nature's Eternity


"If we are absorbed in a movie it may seem at first that the screen lies behind the image. Likewise, if we are so captivated by experience that we overlook the simple experience of being aware or awareness itself, we may first locate it in the background of experience. In this first step, being aware or awareness itself is recognized as the subjective witness of all objective experience. Looking more closely we see that the screen is not just in the background of the image but entirely pervades it. Likewise, all experience is permeated with the knowing with which it is known. It is saturated with the experience of being aware or awareness itself. There is no part of a thought, feeling, sensation or perception that is not infused with the knowing of it. 

This second realization collapses, at least to a degree, the distinction between awareness and its objects. In the third step, we understand that it is not even legitimate to claim that knowing, being aware or awareness itself pervades all experience, as if experience were one thing and awareness another. Just as the screen is all there is to an image, so pure knowing, being aware or awareness itself is all there is to experience. All there is to a thought is thinking, and all there is to thinking is knowing. All there is to an emotion is feeling, and all there is to feeling is knowing. All there is to a sensation is sensing, and all there is to sensing is knowing. All there is to a perception is perceiving, and all there is to perceiving is knowing. Thus, all there is to experience is knowing, and it is knowing that knows this knowing. Being all alone, with nothing in itself other than itself with which it could be limited or divided, knowing or pure awareness is whole, perfect, complete, indivisible and without limits. 

This absence of duality, separation or otherness is the experience of love or beauty, in which any distinction between a self and an object, other or world has dissolved. Thus, love and beauty are the nature of awareness. In the familiar experience of love or beauty, awareness is tasting its own eternal, infinite reality. It is in this context that the painter Paul C├ęzanne said that art gives us the ‘taste of nature’s eternity’."

- Rupert Spira (1960 - )

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Expressing the Spiritual


"Why is abstract art perfectly aligned with the spiritual? Abstract art can capture all manner of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. According to scholar and curator Kirk Varnedoe, who wrote Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock, it 'absorbs projection and generates meaning ahead of naming, establishing the form of things unknown, sui generis, in their peculiar complexities,' Moreover, abstraction offers a 'form of enrichment and alteration of experience denied to the fixed mimesis of known things.' It expands beyond depictions of the real world and engenders its own reality. As our ideas of spirituality change over time, abstract idioms evolve, and through abstraction we 'regenerate ourselves by bathing in the extreme...' It is precisely because abstraction is on 'the borderland around the opening into nothingness' that it is such an effective means of expressing the spiritual. Liberated from the constraints of depicting the real world, abstract art is free to explore the invisible Other. It can reflect the subjective reality of the spiritual -  inner states of being and spiritual presence - through materials, form, and color alone. For such an adventure, what vehicle - with its ability to convey the complex range of human experience - is more adept at engaging the spiritual in art?"

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Eye Cannot See It


"Eye cannot see It,
Tongue cannot utter It,
Mind cannot grasp It.
There is no way to
learn or to teach It.
It is different from the known,
Beyond the unknown.
In this all the ancient masters agree."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Faith


"When you get to the end
of all the light you know
and it's time to step
into the darkness
of the unknown,
faith is knowing that one
of two things shall happen:
either you will be given
something solid to stand on,
or you will be taught how to fly."

- Edward Teller (1908 - 2003)

Monday, March 23, 2020

Soul of the World


"Each person carries a hidden poetic unity that reflects the mysterious continuity of the Soul of the World. In the depths of the soul, we are each an old soul able to survive the troubles of the world and contribute to its healing and renewal. The key to what we miss and secretly long for is hidden within us. Medicine men and healers of all kinds from cultures around the world have used various techniques to not only “heal” the soul, but also to restore individuals to their proper place in the world and in their culture. To heal means to “make whole,” and when we feel whole we are in touch with the whole world. When in touch with our underlying soul, we are naturally in touch with nature and the Soul of the World. We are the missing ingredient in the solutions needed for all that ails us, if we but awaken to the nature of our own souls."

- Michael Meade (1944 - )

Saturday, March 21, 2020

I Am a Leaf

"Like bubbles in a spring, 
the phrase floated effortlessly
to the surface of
my consciousness.
I am a Leaf."

Back in September, while on a trip to the Pacific Northwest with my family, I wrote of an "unexpected kindness" that flowed my way in the form of an email from a recent "follower" of my blog, whose note politely inquired about when I'd next post a new picture. As I wrote at the time, the impersonal sterility of our modern world makes it easy to forget that what connects us all are simple, gentle, human gestures, like one photographer reaching out to another over the technological ether to ask, "I enjoy seeing your pictures; you haven't stopped posting have you?" It is in this same spirit of a deep interconnectedness among all living beings, that I offer in this post not a picture (none would do justice to the impact that the story - and its accompanying photographs - I am about to reveal had on me), but rather a link to an extraordinary - and extraordinarily uplifting and visionary - essay ("I Am a Leaf") that was recently posted by photographer Paul Cotter on the website, Gratefulness.org.

It is curious how I came upon Paul's essay (which I had not seen posted on his own site), for it too is evidence of the "interconnectedness" of things. While Paul and I have never met in person (I look forward to the day we do, for our aesthetic travels appear to have much in common), we have exchanged many emails ever since connecting over an essay Paul had published on Wynn Bullock in 2016. I got to Paul's post by following a link I'd seen on Barbara Bullock Wilson's Facebook page; as dedicated readers of my own blog know, Barbara serendipitously become a treasured "virtual" friend of mine soon after the first email she sent me after reading of my "discovery" of her father's color abstractions back in 2012). But back to Paul, interconnectedness, and his remarkable "I am a Leaf." Paul sent me a link to his essay after reading two of my recent posts (“Branches” and “Part of Something Larger”). Both of these posts, in turns out, had resonated strongly with Paul. After you read his essay, you will immediately see why.

Without spoiling your pleasure of reading Paul's own words, here is part of the email I sent Paul soon after I read his essay for the first time (I have read it multiple times since, and will not soon forget it's message): "Paul, thank you so much for sharing your story. I felt a deep chill reading it, though not in an 'ego-centric' manner, rather in a way profoundly devoid of any 'I' whatsoever. Your experience, and the transformative (dare I say, transcendent) quality of embracing being a  'Part of Something Larger', literally (frank admission) brought a tear to my eye. For a moment, just a fleeting moment, through your words and the images accompanying them, I remember losing my sense of self and reveling in pure being." 

Now, gentle reader, if you have not done so already, please go here and read what Paul has to say about life, vulnerability, self, reality, impermanence, interconnectedness, and - yes - why we are all, "just" leaves. The accompanying images are also nothing short of breathtaking; luminescent, spiritually infused, and all preternaturally soulful. In short, fine-art photography at its very best. 

Please share Paul's message with as many people you believe may benefit from his story. And then stay tuned for things to follow, as Paul has admitted to some long-term plans he has in mind. Thank you, Paul, for sharing your experience!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Part of Something Larger


"On almost every front, we have begun a turning away from a felt relationship with the natural world. The blinding of the stars is only one aspect of this retreat from the real. In so many ways, there has been a prising away of life from place, an abstraction of experience into different kinds of touchlessness. We experience, as no historical period has before, disembodiment and dematerialisation. The almost infinite connectivity of the technological world, for all the benefits that it has brought, has exacted a toll in the coin of contact. We have in many ways forgotten what the world feels like. And so new maladies of the soul have emerged, unhappinesses which are complicated products of the distance we have set between ourselves and the world.

"...up on the summit ridge with the stars falling plainly far above, it seemed to me that our estrangement from the dark was a great and serious loss. We are, as a species, finding it increasingly hard to imagine that we are part of something which is larger than our own capacity. We have come to accept a heresy of aloofness, a humanist belief in human difference, and we suppress wherever possible the checks and balances on us - the reminders that the world is greater than us or that we are contained within it.

- Robert Macfarlane (1976 - )

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Spiritual Experience


"The outcome is this...the whole conscious being is open to spiritual experiences of every kind. It turns toward spiritual truth in thought, feeling, perception, and action; it is adjusted to respond rightly... The second thing is the free influx of all kinds of spiritual experience, experience of self, experience of God and of the divine creative power, experience of the cosmic consciousness, a direct contact with cosmic forces and with the hidden movements of universal Nature, a psychic sympathy, union, inner communication and various kinds of reciprocal relationship with other beings and with Nature as a whole, illumination of the heart through love and devotion, through spiritual joy and ecstasy, illumination of the senses and of the body through higher experiences, illumination of dynamic action in truth and love, purification of mind and spirit, heart, and soul."

Emma Kunz (1893 - 1963)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Arbitrary Divisions


"The true splendor of science is not so much that it names and classifies, records and predicts, but that it observes and desires to know the facts, whatever they may turn out to be. However much it may confuse facts with conventions, and reality with arbitrary divisions, in this openness and sincerity of mind it bears some resemblance to religion, understood in its other and deeper sense. The greater the scientist, the more he is impressed with his ignorance of reality, and the more he realizes that his laws and labels, descriptions and definitions, are the products of his own thought. They help him to use the world for purposes of his own devising rather than to understand and explain it. The more he analyzes the universe into infinitesimals, the more things he finds to classify, and the more he perceives the relativity of all classification. What he does not know seems to increase in geometric progression to what he knows. Steadily he approaches the point where what is unknown is not a mere blank space in a web of words but a window in the mind, a window whose name is not ignorance but wonder."

- Alan Watts (1915 - 1973)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Aesthetic Intuition


"Neither religious nor artistic contemplation should be regarded as 'things' which happen or 'objects' which one can 'have.' They belong to the much more mysterious realm of what one 'is' -  rather 'who' one is. Aesthetic intuition is not merely the act of a faculty, it is also a heightening and intensification of our personal identity and being by the perception of our connatural affinity with 'Being' in the beauty contemplated.

In the case of a Zen artist, there is ...no artistic reflection. The work of art springs 'out of emptiness' and is transferred in a flash, by a few brushstrokes, to paper. It is not a 'representation of' anything, but rather it is the subject itself, existing as light, as art, in a drawing which has, so to speak, 'drawn itself.' The work then is a concretized intuition: not however presented as a unique experience of a specially endowed soul, who can then claim it as his own. On the contrary, to make any such claim would instantly destroy the character of 'emptiness' and suchness which the work might be imagined to have. For the Zen man to pretend to share which 'his' experience would be the height of absurdity. Whose experience? Shared with whom? The artist might well be brusquely invited to go home and consider the question: 'Who do you think you are, anyway?' I do not know if this question is recorded among the traditional koans, but it deserves to be.

A disciple once complained to a Zen master that he was unsettled in his mind. The master said: 'All right, give me your mind and I will settle it for you.' The disciple's helplessness to pick up his mind and hand it over to somebody else gave him some idea of the nature of his 'problems.' One cannot begin to be an artist ... until he has become 'empty,' until he has disappeared."

- Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Looking


"The less there was to see,
the harder he looked,
the more he saw.
This was the point.
To see what's here,
finally to look and
to know you're looking,
to feel time passing,
to be alive to
what is happening in the
smallest registers of motion."

- Don Dellilo (1936 - )

Friday, March 13, 2020

Ontological Autometamorphosis


"For some time, there was a widely held notion (zealously fostered by the daily press) to the effect that the 'thinking ocean' of Solaris was a gigantic brain, prodigiously well-developed and several million years in advance of our own civilization, a sort of 'cosmic yogi,' a sage, a symbol of omniscience, which had long ago understood the vanity of all action and for this reason had retreated into an unbreakable silence. The notion was incorrect, for the living ocean was active. Not, it is true, according to human ideas — it did not build cities or bridges, nor did it manufacture flying machines. It did not try to reduce distances, nor was it concerned with the conquest of Space (the ultimate criterion, some people thought, of man's superiority). But it was engaged in a never-ending process of transformation, an 'ontological autometamorphosis.'"

- Stanislaw Lem (1921 - 2006)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Appearances


"We ourselves introduce that
order and regularity in the
appearance which we
entitle 'nature'. 
We could never find them 
in appearances had we
not ourselves,
by the nature of 
our own mind,
originally set them there."

Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Eternal Unity


"No one was out on the water but me. It was a moonless night, and quiet. The only sound I could hear was the soft churning of the engine of my boat. Far from the distracting lights of the mainland, the sky vibrated with stars. Taking a chance, I turned off my running lights, and it got even darker. Then I turned off my engine. I lay down in the boat and looked up. A very dark night sky seen from the ocean is a mystical experience. After a few minutes, my world had dissolved into that star-littered sky. The boat disappeared. My body disappeared. And I found myself falling into infinity. A feeling came over me I’d not experienced before… I felt an overwhelming connection to the stars, as if I were part of them. And the vast expanse of time — extending from the far distant past long before I was born and then into the far distant future long after I will die — seemed compressed to a dot. I felt connected not only to the stars but to all of nature, and to the entire cosmos. I felt a merging with something far larger than myself, a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute. After a time, I sat up and started the engine again. I had no idea how long I’d been lying there looking up."

- Alan Lightman (1948 - )

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Branches


"A tree is alive, and thus it is always more than you can see. Roots to leaves, yes-those you can, in part, see. But it is more-it is the lichens and moss and ferns that grow on its bark, the life too small to see that lives among its roots, a community we know of, but do not think on. It is every fly and bee and beetle that uses it for shelter or food, every bird that nests in its branches. Every one an individual, and yet every one part of the tree, and the tree part of every one."

- Elizabeth Moon (1945 - )

Saturday, March 07, 2020

The World as Mirror


"Know the world from end to end is a mirror;
in each atom a hundred suns are concealed.
If you pierce the heart of a single drop of water,
from it will flow a hundred clear oceans;
if you look intently at each speck of dust,
in it you will see a thousand beings.
A gnat in its limbs is like an elephant;
in name a drop of water resembles the Nile.
In the heart of a barleycorn
is stored a hundred harvests.
Within a millet-seed a world exists.
In an insects wing is an ocean of life.
A heaven is concealed in the pupil of an eye.
The core at the center of the heart is small,
yet the Lord of both worlds will enter there."

- Mahmud Shabistari (1288 - 1340)

Friday, March 06, 2020

Encountering the Whole


"We cannot know the whole in the way in which we know things because we cannot recognize the whole as a thing. If the whole were available to be recognized in the same way as we recognize the things which surround us, then the whole would be counted among these things as one of them. So we could point and say 'here is this' and 'there is that' and 'that’s the whole over there.' If we could do this we would know the whole in the same way that we know its parts, for the whole itself would simply be numbered among its parts, so that the whole would be outside of its parts in just the same way that each part is outside all the other parts… But the whole comes into presence within its parts, so we cannot encounter the whole in the same way as we encounter the parts. Thus we cannot know the whole in the way that we know things and recognize ourselves knowing things. So we should not think of the whole as if it were a thing…, for in so doing we effectively deny the whole inasmuch as we are making as if to externalize that which can presence only within the things which are external with respect to our awareness of them."

- Henri Bortoft (1938 - 2012)

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

The Numinous


"Suppose you were told that there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told 'There is a ghost in the next room,' and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is 'uncanny' rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply "There is a mighty spirit in the room" and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking–described as awe, and the object which excites it is the Numinous."

- C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

Monday, March 02, 2020

Spiritual Freedom


"Many colors have been described as rough or sticky, others as smooth and uniform, so that one feels inclined to stroke them (e.g., dark ultramarine, chromic oxide green, and rose madder). Equally the distinction between warm and cold colors belongs to this connection. Some colors appear soft (rose madder), others hard (cobalt green, blue-green oxide), so that even fresh from the tube they seem to be dry. The expression “scented colors” is frequently met with. And finally the sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would try to express bright yellow in the bass notes, or dark lake in the treble…

Color is a power which directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.

This essential connection between color and form brings us to the question of the influences of form on color. Form alone, even though totally abstract and geometrical, has a power of inner suggestion. A triangle (without the accessory consideration of its being acute — or obtuse — angled or equilateral) has a spiritual value of its own. In connection with other forms, this value may be somewhat modified, but remains in quality the same. The case is similar with a circle, a square, or any conceivable geometrical figure [which has] a subjective substance in an objective shell.

The work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From him it gains life and being. Nor is its existence casual and inconsequent, but it has a definite and purposeful strength, alike in its material and spiritual life. It exists and has power to create spiritual atmosphere; and from this inner standpoint one judges whether it is a good work of art or a bad one. If its “form” is bad it means that the form is too feeble in meaning to call forth corresponding vibrations of the soul… The artist is not only justified in using, but it is his duty to use only those forms which fulfill his own need… Such spiritual freedom is as necessary in art as it is in life."

- Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944)

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Transcendence


"Historians who believe in the transcendence of science have portrayed scientists as living in a transcendent world of the intellect, superior to the transient, corruptible, mundane realities of the social world. Any scientist who claims to follow such exalted ideals is easily held up to ridicule as a pious fraud. We all know that scientists, like television evangelists and politicians, are not immune to the corrupting influences of power and money. Much of the history of science, like the history of religion, is a history of struggles driven by power and money. And yet this is not the whole story. Genuine saints occasionally play an important role, both in religion and in science. Einstein was an important figure in the history of science, and he was a firm believer in transcendence. For Einstein, science as a way of escape from mundane reality was no pretense. For many scientists less divinely gifted than Einstein, the chief reward for being a scientist is not the power and the money but the chance of catching a glimpse of the transcendent beauty of nature."

- Freeman Dyson (1923 - 2020)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Order of Things


"There where the weaver
would patch his cloth,
Where an able mathematician
would correct his errors,
Where the artist would
retouch his masterpiece
as yet imperfect
or recently damaged,
Nature prefers to start
all over from clay,
from chaos;
and this squandering is
called the order of things."

- Marguerite Yourcenar (1903 - 1987)

Monday, February 24, 2020

Random Mutations


"At this moment, in this place, the shifting action potential in my neurons cascade into certain arrangements, patterns, thoughts; they flow down my spine, branch into my arms, my fingers, until muscles twitch and thought is translated into motion; mechanical levers are pressed; electrons are rearranged; marks are made on paper.

At another time, in another place, light strikes the marks, reflects into a pair of high-precision optical instruments sculpted by nature after billions of years of random mutations; upside-down images are formed against two screens made up of millions of light-sensitive cells, which translate light into electrical pulses that go up the optic nerves, cross the chiasm, down the optic tracts, and into the visual cortex, where the pulses are reassembled into letters, punctuation marks, words, sentences, vehicles, tenors, thoughts.

The entire system seems fragile, preposterous, science fictional."

- Ken Liu (1976 - )

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Organized Patterns


"Perhaps our creative forays, from the stags at Lascaux to the equations of general relativity, emerge from the brain’s naturally selected but overly active ability to detect and coherently organize patterns. Perhaps these and related pursuits are exquisite but adaptively superfluous by-products of a sufficiently large brain released from full-time focus on securing shelter and sustenance… What lies beyond question is that we imagine and we create and we experience works, from the Pyramids to the Ninth Symphony to quantum mechanics, that are monuments to human ingenuity whose durability, if not whose content, point toward permanence.

...

Whereas most life, miraculous in its own right, is tethered to the immediate, we can step outside of time. We can think about the past, we can imagine the future. We can take in the universe, we can process it, we can explore it with mind and body, with reason and emotion. From our lonely corner of the cosmos we have used creativity and imagination to shape words and images and structures and sounds to express our longings and frustrations, our confusions and revelations, our failures and triumphs. We have used ingenuity and perseverance to touch the very limits of outer and inner space, determining fundamental laws that govern how stars shine and light travels, how time elapses and space expands — laws that allow us to peer back to the briefest moment after the universe began and then shift our gaze and contemplate its end."

- Brian Greene (1963 - )

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Associative Play


"The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be 'voluntarily' reproduced and combined.

There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above-mentioned elements. But taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought — before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others.

The above-mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some of muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will."

- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Rational Concepts


"The divine principle of unity has ever been that of an inner inter-relationship. This is revealed in some of its earliest stages in the evolution of multicellular life on this planet. The most perfect outward expression has been attained by man in his own body. But what is most important of all is the fact that man has also attained its realization in a more subtle body outside his physical system. He misses himself when isolated he finds his own larger and truer self in his wide human relationship. His multicellular body is born and it dies; his multi-personal humanity is immortal.

"...the impersonal aspect of truth dealt with by science belongs to the human Universe. But men of Science tell us that truth, unlike beauty, and goodness, is independent of our consciousness. They explain to us how the belief, that truth is independent of the human mind, is a mystical belief, natural to man but at the same time inexplicable. But may not the explanation be this, that ideal truth does not depend upon the individual mind of man but on the universal mind which comprehends the individual? For to say that truth, as we see it, exists apart from humanity is really to contradict science itself; because science can only organize into rational concepts those facts which man can know and understand, and logic is a machinery of thinking created by the mechanic man.

I do not imply that the final nature of the world depends upon the comprehension of the individual person. Its reality is associated with the universal human mind which comprehends all time and all possibilities of realization. And this is why for the accurate knowledge of things we depend upon science that represents the rational mind of the universal man and not upon that of the individual who dwells in a limited range of space and time, and the immediate needs of life."

- Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Timelessness


"You would measure time
the measureless and the immeasurable.
You would adjust your conduct
and even direct the course of your spirit
according to hours and seasons.
Of time you would make a stream
upon whose bank you would sit
and watch its flowing.
Yet the timeless in you
is aware of life’s timelessness,
And knows that yesterday
is but today’s memory
and tomorrow is today’s dream.
And that that which sings
and contemplates in you is still dwelling
within the bounds of that first moment
which scattered the stars into space."

- Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931) 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Autobiographical Memory


"When you summon up an autobiographical memory, you engage in a kind of mental time travel. You identify your current 'remembering self' with your past 'experiencing self'—like the self that was feeling apprehensive on the first day of school. These two selves are connected, not just through a continuously existing physical body but also through a somewhat discontinuous (because interrupted by dreamless sleep) stream of consciousness. The faculty of autobiographical memory allows us to understand ourselves as beings whose existence extends over time."

- Jim Holt (1954 - )

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Visible Delineations


"You see what the eye does teach; and yet it would never of itself have afforded this insight, without something that looks through the eyes and uses the data of the senses as mere guides to penetrate from the apparent to the unseen. It is needless to add the methods of geometry that lead us step by step through visible delineations to truths that lie out of sight, and countless other instances which all prove that apprehension is the work of an intellectual essence deeply seated in our nature, acting through the operation of our bodily senses."

- St. Gregory of Nyssa (335 – 395)

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Naive Realism


"We all start from “naive realism,” i.e., the doctrine that things are what they seem. We think that grass is green, that stones are hard, and that snow is cold. But physics assures us that the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow are not the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow that we know in our own experience, but something very different."

- Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mental Constructs


"Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life."

W.G. Sebald (1944 - 2001)

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Origins of Form


"The evolution of all things animate or inanimate takes place within a sea of forces. Some of these forces are dominant, some are scarcely there at all, but all exert some influence on the changing form. The force might be a necessity for the placement of leaves to maximize sunlight or it might be a compression of space, a surface stress, heat, infusion with another substance, vibration, or sonic disturbance, wind, torsion, electrical charge, gravitational pull, or any number and combination of other mechanical or chemical forces. The substance can only respond and its evolving form is a reflection of the forces, like a patch of froth on a slowly winding river revealing the currents and countercurrents. When the forces are complex and constantly shifting, the developing form is unpredictable, like an old pear tree that has been broken, pruned, and buffeted by the elements, or the skin of an aged elephant. But when the forces are more constant and predictable the forms evolve into rhythm, pattern, and symmetry."

- Christopher Williams
Origins of Form