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.

The Matrix of All Matter

"I regard consciousness as fundamental, matter is derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness. There is no matter as such; it exists only by virtue of a force bringing the particle to vibration and holding it together in a minute solar system; we must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The mind is the matrix of all matter."

- Max Planck (1858 - 1947)

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Dynamic Interconnection

"The basic recurring theme in Hindu mythology is the creation of the world by the self-sacrifice of God—"sacrifice" in the original sense of "making sacred"—whereby God becomes the world which, in the end, becomes again God. This creative activity of the Divine is called lila, the play of God, and the world is seen as the stage of the divine play. Like most of Hindu mythology, the myth of lila has a strong magical flavor. Brahman is the great magician who transforms himself into the world and then performs this feat with his "magic creative power", which is the original meaning of maya in the Rig Veda. The word maya—one of the most important terms in Indian philosophy—has changed its meaning over the centuries. From the might, or power, of the divine actor and magician, it came to signify the psychological state of anybody under the spell of the magic play. As long as we confuse the myriad forms of the divine lila with reality, without perceiving the unity of Brahman underlying all these forms, we are under the spell of maya. (...) In the Hindu view of nature, then, all forms are relative, fluid and ever-changing maya, conjured up by the great magician of the divine play. The world of maya changes continuously, because the divine lila is a rhythmic, dynamic play. The dynamic force of the play is karma, important concept of Indian thought. Karma means "action." It is the active principle of the play, the total universe in action, where everything is dynamically connected with everything else. In the words of the Gita Karma is the force of creation, wherefrom all things have their life."

- Fritjof Capra (1939 - )
The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels
between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism

Monday, September 06, 2021

Divine Language

"… symbolism seems to us to be
quite specially adapted to the needs
of human nature, which is not
exclusively intellectual but which
needs a sensory basis from
which to rise to higher levels.
… the highest truths, which would not
be communicable or transmissible
by any other means, can be
communicated up to a certain
point when they are, so to speak,
incorporated in symbols which
will hide them for many, no doubt,
but which will manifest them
in all their splendor to the
eyes of those who can see.
the world is like a divine language for
those who know how to understand it.
… if the world is the result
of the Divine Word offered at
the beginning of time, then nature
in its entirety can be taken as
a symbol of supernatural reality."

- René Guénon (1886 - 1951)
Fundamental Symbols, The Universal Language of Sacred Science

Friday, September 03, 2021

Forging One's Own Path

About 6-1/2 years ago, I blogged about my youngest son's (Josh's) joyous "discovery" of the magic of photography. Having (back then, newly and quickly) acquired a few "old" Polaroids, including the venerable SX-70, and moving on for a time to Canon's AE-1 Program (a model I learned from in the late 1970s!) before settling on a more modern Fuji XT-2 that he never leaves the house without, Josh's honeymoon with photography has never ended. I had no way of knowing any of this would come to pass when I wrote (back in march, 2015): "Of course, I have no idea how long Josh's enthusiasm will last. It may die out, it may intensify, or it may transform into some other related art form. But if these early indications are a valid data source, he has clearly been very deeply bitten by his creative muse. May they forever more remain inseparable." Prescient musings, indeed!

What a sincere joy it is - as a photographer and loving father - to witness Josh's continued - accelerating - maturation as a bona fide artist. He and I (Josh, somewhat reluctantly at first, humbly unsure of his pictures' aesthetic "worth") finally put together an on-line gallery to show off some of his best work. Speaking just as a father, it melts my heart to see this flowering of Josh's artistic passion. But speaking as a photographer, I am simply awed by his prodigious talent. To go from effectively never having "clicked a shutter" before 2015 (and ignoring Josh's very early foray into photography, when he was 5, and played with a Casio QV-10 for a few days before relegating it to his closet, and never touching it again), to the technically and aesthetically superlative images - any of which I would be proud to call my own, but alas, cannot, since they're all unmistakably Josh's! (Josh does all of his own editing, and has never taken a course on photography) - that you will find on his new website, is astoundingly rare. 

Whatever irreducible bias I may have as a father aside, Josh's images are infused with a palpable artistry. While his and my aesthetic spaces do overlap in places (we both love epic" landscapes and run toward magic light without cost to life or limb), the pattern-of-patterns of his images is uniquely his (this, despite, or possibly because of, being exposed to his dad's photography for so many years). To forge one's own aesthetic path is far from easy, but is a clear sign that something special is brewing. Although he is most passionate about taking - and expressing his photographic vision through - macros, his well honed eye for light, geometry, and composition in general is seen in all of his photographs. But enough gushing by an unreservedly - and unabashedly - enthused dad/photographer. Go take a look at Josh's work on his new website. You won't regret it!

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Delusion of Separateness

"A human being is part of the
whole called by us a universe,
a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself,
his thoughts and his feelings,
as something separate
from the rest, a kind
of optical delusion
of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind
of prison for us;
it restricts us to our
personal decisions and
our affections to a few
persons nearest to us.
Our task must be to free
ourselves from this prison by
widening our circle of
compassion to embrace
all living creatures and
the whole of nature of
its beauty."

Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Three Quarks for Muster Mark

"In 1963, when I assigned the name "quark" to the fundamental constituents of the nucleon, I had the sound first, without the spelling, which could have been "kwork." Then, in one of my occasional perusals of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, I came across the word "quark" in the phrase "Three quarks for Muster Mark." Since "quark" (meaning, for one thing, the cry of a gull) was clearly intended to rhyme with "Mark," as well as "bark" and other such words, I had to find an excuse to pronounce it as "kwork." But the book represents the dreams of a publican named Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Words in the text are typically drawn from several sources at once, like the "portmanteau words" in Through the Looking Glass. From time to time, phrases occur in the book that are partially determined by calls for drinks at the bar. I argued, therefore, that perhaps one of the multiple sources of the cry "Three quarks for Muster Mark" might be "Three quarts for Mister Mark," in which case the pronunciation "kwork" would not be totally unjustified. In any case, the number three fitted perfectly the way quarks occur in nature."

- Murray Gell-Mann (1929 - 2019)
The Quark and the Jaguar