Sunday, February 20, 2022

Web of Time

"This web of time, the
strands of which approach
one another, bifurcate,
intersect or ignore each
other through the centuries,
embraces every possibility.
We do not exist in most of them.
In some you exist and not I,
while in others I do,
and you do not"

Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986)
"The Garden of Forking Paths" in Ficciones 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Celestial Light

“Celestial light, shine inward...
that I may see and tell of things
invisible to mortal sight.”

- John Milton (1608 - 1674)

“When you touch the celestial in your heart,
you will realize that the beauty of your soul
is so pure, so vast and so devastating that
you have no option but to merge with it.
You have no option but to feel the rhythm
of the universe in the rhythm of your heart.”

- Amit Ray (1960 - )

Postscript. This is (for now) the last of my recent "celestial leaves" series. In the context of "creative process," I thought it worth mentioning how these images came to be. As with 90%+ of my photographs, very little forethought went into them; at least, initially. After picking up the Sunday paper from the bottom of our driveway, turning and heading back to the house, I noticed a small shriveled leaf - perhaps two inches long or so (and that I couldn't immediately identify) - lying just off to the side of our walkway. I was mesmerized by its delicately translucent veins and patterns. The weathered leaf had clearly been "sitting" around for quite some time, as evidenced by its many rips and tears, and splotches of dirt and fungus. Still, in my mind's eye, it was radiantly beautiful. I knew instinctively that I needed to try to capture its essence. I had "pictured" it almost exactly as shown above (in what is effectively a digital negative, to highlight its luminescent quality), and as each of the other recent images appear. Despite a valiant effort to find similar-looking "dilapidated leaves" (including a 2 hour dedicated mini-hike around the woodlands in our neighborhood!), I managed to find only three others; which my wife finally identified as belonging to a simple hosta bush. But the real story as far as the "creative process" goes is just this: that one's muse prods when she will, on her own schedule; and that we must always be attuned to our muse's musings. I had nary a thought to whip out my macro lens to take still-lifes of dilapidated leaves this past Sunday morning; heck, I strolled out for the paper even before my first coffee! But that numinous little "celestial leaf" that I noticed by chance (or, better, that my muse's own eye wisely led me to) eventually - and happily - consumed my creative energies for days afterward 😊

Monday, February 14, 2022

Living Centers

"What is the life that we discern in things?"

"Each of us has an eternal self—a best self—an “I” that goes beyond what we normally see. This is what allows us to contact the 'living centers' in ourselves, in others, and in spaces that come alive for us. This field of centers, that appears in things, people, events, places shows us our interconnectedness…and can be called God or Spirit manifest. Everything we do and make, then, is a gift to IT. Good things grow and unfold out of our understood wholeness."

Christopher Alexander (1936 - )
The Nature of Order: Luminous Ground

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Cosmic Tree

"The alchemist saw the union of opposites under the symbol of the tree, and it is therefore not surprising that the unconscious of present-day man, who no longer feels at home in his world and can base his existence neither on the past that is no more nor on the future that is yet to be, should hark back to the symbol of the cosmic tree rooted in this world and growing up to heaven - the tree that is also man. In the history of symbols this tree is described as the way of life itself, a growing into that which eternally is and does not change; which springs from the union of opposites and, by its eternal presence, also makes that union possible. It seems as if it were only through an experience of symbolic reality that man, vainly seeking his own “existence” and making a philosophy out of it, can find his way back to a world in which he is no longer a stranger."

C. G. Jung (1875-1961)
Psychological Types

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Nothing is Dead

"Millions of years ago,
there was blackness,
pure and beautiful Nothing.
There was no thing in it,
no star, no wind,
no light, no word,
no broken heart.

But a time came when perfect,
restful Nothing was to vanish
forever. Something was
about to be.

Suddenly, there it was.
Something, all alone, king
of everything. Killer
of ancient, beautiful
Nothing. There was
a silence.

...till Nothing screamed
a death scream and
that scream is still screaming,
an expanding ring into the
universe that will never end.

Nothing is dead…"

- Joseph Pintauro (1930 - 2018)
To Believe in Things

Friday, February 11, 2022

Ethereal Being

"...this little hissing and buzzing
whirlwind, of wings of purple and
azure, in the midst of which floated
an elusive form veiled by the very
rapidity of its movement.

The ethereal being which took
shape confusedly through this
quivering of wings seemed to you
chimerical, imaginary, impossible
to touch, impossible to see.

But when at last the young lady
was resting at the tip of a reed
and you could examine,
holding your breath,
the long gauze wings,
the long enamel dress,
the two crystal globes,
what astonishment did
you not feel? "

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

We are Stories

"We are stories,
contained within the twenty
complicated centimeters
behind our eyes,
lines drawn by traces
left by the (re)mingling
together of things in the
world, and oriented toward
the direction of increasing
entropy, in a rather particular
corner of this immense,
chaotic universe."

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Cosmic Sea of Energy

"Space is not empty.
It is full, a plenum
as opposed to a vacuum,
and is the ground for
the existence of everything,
including ourselves.
The universe is not separate
from this cosmic sea
of energy.
Relativity and quantum theory agree, in that they both imply the need to look on the world as an undivided whole, in which all parts of the universe, including the observer and his instruments, merge and unite in one totality. In this totality, the atomistic form of insight is a simplification and an abstraction, valid only in some limited context.
The essential feature in
quantum interconnectedness
is that the whole universe
is enfolded in everything,
and that each thing is
enfolded in the whole."

David Bohm (1917 - 1992)

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Mathematical Beauty

"The harmony of the
world is made manifest
in Form and Number,
and the heart and soul
and all the poetry of
Natural Philosophy are
embodied in the concept
of mathematical beauty."

- D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860 - 1948)

Postscript. As may be the case with many of you, my day-job constraints leave me precious little time to devote to purely aesthetic pleasures (notwithstanding those that occasionally overlap with more mathematical pursuits). Sometimes, as now, even my weekend time is filled mostly with staring at gibberish on a computer screen, and pounding away at my keyboard to produce picture-less reams of technical reports (even as I day-dream of month-long photo-safaris in far-away lands). Thus, the short walks my wife and I take through our neighborhood after breakfast each day have become immeasurably important physical and spiritual oases for me. The simple pleasure of encountering beautifully haphazard arrangements of natural forms rejuvenates and nourishes my soul. The images in the triptych above were taken no more than a few minutes apart during a walk that itself lasted less than a half hour. But what a joy it is to stumble upon such humble transcendent beauty hiding in plain sight! The great polymath Thompson's book, On Growth and Form (the first edition of which came out in 1917, and which to this day remains an extraordinarily beautiful book to read) is essentially a 1100+ page erudite argument that biology can be reduced to mathematics (a sentiment that a much younger version of myself would have been happy to accept): "It behooves us always to remember that in physics it has taken great men to discover simple things. They are very great names indeed which we couple with the explanation of the path of a stone, the droop of a chain, the tints of a bubble, the shadows in a cup. It is but the slightest adumbration of a dynamical morphology that we can hope to have until the physicist and the mathematician shall have made these problems of ours their own." For those of you interested in exploring (taking a deep-dive, really, into) the broader entanglement of art and science, here are some slides I used for a 2017 presentation at a Humanities and Technology Association conference (held that year in Newport, RI). This lecture is one of three I've given in (relatively) recent years during which I wore both of my hats, as physicist and photographer. The other two lectures were given at the American Center for Physics (College Park, MD in 2009) and at the Morrison House (Alexandria, VA in 2011).