For those especially drawn to observe, and be alone amongst a crowd, seeking moments of beauty, grace, and transcendence. Where have you put your hopes?
What kind of relationship might you be in with such abstractions as that of human nature (your own deep impulses, passing thoughts, and possible motivations, as well as those of the people around you)?
What kind of relationship might you be in with such abstractions as nature and reality (the world your senses perceive, those laws and patterns likely enduring thought, the old knowledge become practice and the new knowledge on the edge of understanding, the truths which seem to little give nor receive, forgive nor remember)?
‘Earlier this summer marked the 50th anniversary of C. P. Snow’s famous “Two Cultures” essay, in which he lamented the great cultural divide that separates two great areas of human intellectual activity, “science” and “the arts.” Snow argued that practitioners in both areas should build bridges, to further the progress of human knowledge and to benefit society.’
My two cents: This blog tends to worry about modern ‘one culture’ visions, too.
On the one hand, you’ve got your ‘scientific socialism;’ the clear dead-end, totalizing Marxist theories of history and various neo-Marxist movements having since colonized many faculty-lounges, HR departments, and media pulpits across America.
Deep, bad ideas tend to live on once plugged into many deep, human desires and dreams. The radical pose will be with us for a while.
Of course, it’s rather sad to witness the sheepish, suburban apologetics of identity amongst the chattering classes; the moment of surprise and fear when a previously insulated writer (leaning upon traditions) realizes today just might be their day in the barrel.
Sooner or later you’re going to have to stand up for your principles.
You’ve also got many modern ‘-Ist’ movements, which, whatever truth and knowledge claims they may contain (some quite important ones, I think), are often quick to conflate the means of science with the ends of politics. ‘Join us,’ they say, and become a part of the modern world. The mission of ‘Education’ is easily mistaken for knowledge, learning with wisdom, collective group action with individual achievement.
There is a kind of a high middlebrow drift towards….I’m not sure where, exactly.
Alas, if you’re still with me, here are some links:
‘Mirrors and pools of water work pretty much the same way. Light interacts with electrons on the surface. Under the laws of quantum mechanics, each photon interacts with ALL of the electrons on the surface, and the net result is the sum of all possible pathways. If the surface is perfectly smooth, then most of the pathways cancel each other out, except for the one where the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. ‘
Click through for the illustrations to help explain Feynman’s theory, which fascinated me when I first came across it; much as I understand of it.
Have you ever seen sunlight reflecting off a body of water from a few thousand feet up in a plane? A rainbow in a puddle with some oil in it? A laser reflecting off a smooth surface like a mirror?
As Richard Rorty sees it, no standard objective for truth exists but for the interpretation of a few philosophers interpreting whatever of philosophy they’ve read. It’s all just an author’s “stuff.” Here’s an excerpt discussing the debate between him and Hilary Putnam:
Addition: Western mind shifted to “science?”…well as for poetry T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens had some fairly profound religious influences.
The rocky nook with hilltops three Looked eastward from the farms, And twice each day the flowing sea Took Boston in its arms; The men of yore were stout and poor, And sailed for bread to every shore.
And where they went on trade intent They did what freeman can, Their dauntless ways did all men praise, The merchant was a man. The world was made for honest trade,- To plant and eat be none afraid.
The waves that rocked them on the deep To them their secret told; Said the winds that sung the lads to sleep, ‘Like us be free and bold!’ The honest waves refuse to slaves The empire of the ocean caves.
Old Europe groans with palaces, Has lords enough and more;- We plant and build by foaming seas A city of the poor;- For day by day could Boston Bay Their honest labor overpay.
We grant no dukedoms to the few, We hold like rights and shall;- Equal on Sunday in the pew, On Monday in the mall. For what avail the plough or sail, Or land or life, if freedom fail?
The noble craftsmen we promote, Disown the knave and fool; Each honest man shall have his vote, Each child shall have his school. A union then of honest men, Or union nevermore again.
The wild rose and the barberry thorn Hung out their summer pride Where now on heated pavements worn The feet of millions stride.
Fair rose the planted hills behind The good town on the bay, And where the western hills declined The prairie stretched away.
What care though rival cities soar Along the stormy coast: Penn’s town, New York, and Baltimore, If Boston knew the most!
They laughed to know the world so wide; The mountains said: ‘Good-day! We greet you well, you Saxon men, Up with your towns and stay!’ The world was made for honest trade,- To plant and eat be none afraid.
‘For you,’ they said, ‘no barriers be, For you no sluggard rest; Each street leads downward to the sea, Or landward to the West.’
O happy town beside the sea, Whose roads lead everywhere to all; Than thine no deeper moat can be, No stouter fence, no steeper wall!
Bad news from George on the English throne: ‘You are thriving well,’ said he; ‘Now by these presents be it known, You shall pay us a tax on tea; ‘Tis very small,-no load at all,- Honor enough that we send the call.’
‘Not so,’ said Boston, ‘good my lord, We pay your governors here Abundant for their bed and board, Six thousand pounds a year. (Your highness knows our homely word,) Millions for self-government, But for tribute never a cent.’
The cargo came! and who could blame If Indians seized the tea, And, chest by chest, let down the same Into the laughing sea? For what avail the plough or sail Or land or life, if freedom fail?
The townsmen braved the English king, Found friendship in the French, And Honor joined the patriot ring Low on their wooden bench.
O bounteous seas that never fail! O day remembered yet! O happy port that spied the sail Which wafted Lafayette! Pole-star of light in Europe’s night, That never faltered from the right.
Kings shook with fear, old empires crave The secret force to find Which fired the little State to save The rights of all mankind.
But right is might through all the world; Province to province faithful clung, Through good and ill the war-bolt hurled, Till Freedom cheered and the joy-bells rung.
The sea returning day by day Restores the world-wide mart; So let each dweller on the Bay Fold Boston in his heart, Till these echoes be choked with snows, Or over the town blue ocean flows.