Myths and science fulfill a similar function: they both
provide human beings with a representation of the world and of the forces that
are supposed to govern it. They both fix the limits of what is considered as
Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.
Questions raise our pulse and sharpen our delight. [...]
Refining our capacity to notice is an act of reverence that we can bring to everywhere and everywhen. It's an invitation, bringing the world's most basic presence into view, opening our horizons and restoring our spirits. And that is what science is really there for.
More than two centuries ago, the great poet William Blake offered the world the most extraordinary of possibilities:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.
Yeah, that would be nice.
Unfortunately, most of us don't know how to hold eternity in the palm of our hands. In fact, most of us feel lucky if we can just hold it together until the end of the day. The problem, of course, is that mostly we've lost our minds. And I mean that literally. Our attention is endlessly lost in the endless blur of appointments, to-do lists, worry, concern and agitation that makes up modern life.[...]
Can we really see the whole world in a grain of sand?
Through the lens of science we can see how even the smallest thing can be a gateway to an experience of the extraordinary, if only we can practice noticing.
Taking in the "Gray Column" from all angles of the gallery, it's clear that Valentine's work is, essentially, a protracted experiment in the relationship between light and matter. As the artist once said, his goal was to "take a big saw and cut out a piece of sky."
Fundamentally, both art and science are about encounters with the real world — the one we live in and experience as colors, textures, shapes and sounds. Every artistic creation and every scientific study is a record of experimentation. At their best those experiments are rooted in two vital qualities: interest and attention.[...]
Interest and attention allow us to live lives that are rich in meaning, lives that are passionate about noticing the everyday miracles right in front of us. No wonder, then, that both science and art have such power over us.
David Haskell conversed with me about his experiences in the forest. Here are some highlights from our exchange, starting with his observation that the most numerous woodland creatures were not the most obvious:
The forest is ruled by the inconspicuous small creatures. Birds and mammals are more eye-catching, but the vast majority of the animals present were tiny insects, snails, worms and other invertebrate animals. Getting down on my belly with a hand lens pressed to my eye was the best way to see this.
But it's not only the animal species that are inter-connected; Haskell, too, became part of the forest ecosystem.
A deer walked right up to me — I was sitting very still and it did not see me — then took alarm and snorted. The deer's call was picked up by chipmunks, then squirrels above me, then wood thrushes downslope, spreading like a wave from a rock thrown into a lake. It took more than an hour for the wave to settle, especially for the chipmunks. From then on, I could tell when hikers were approaching by the bow wave of alarm that preceded them