It is 1915.
In seeking supporting evidence for his groundbreaking theory of general relativity, Einstein applies his equations to Mercury’s orbit, which has long puzzled astronomers as it does not conform to classical Newtonian mathematics. Einstein succeeds in resolving this discrepancy and describes the moment as so thrilling that he experiences several hours of heart palpitations.
His heart hammers rhythmically, rapidly, echoing the dancing heartbeat of a bush hunter stalking antelope on the golden African plains. He realises, at this very moment, he alone wields complete understanding of the movements of heavenly bodies suspended in a limitless universe.
Perhaps this is what Einstein feels: the ancient thrill of mastery, however minuscule and momentary, over all things imaginable.
12, Flinders’ Ranges, the Outback: Huddling around a lonely fire, dogs slinking about at the edge of darkness. We skewer sausages and roast them, with the dusty land, the infinitude of stars as companions. In the morning, I wake early and with the rising sun, trek out to see the kangaroos grazing amidst the bush.
15, Sabah, Malaysia: Chased by a storm at dusk, we stop at a deserted prawning farm by the river, the smell of marshland and rain heavy in the humid air. We pull at our lines to draw the prawns and the water bubbles as fish surface briefly. Then the skies break and rain batters the zinc roofs, vestiges of a fading era. A great peal of thunder and for a brief second white lightning illuminates the entirety of the marshes as the building shakes. Plunged into semi-darkness as the electricity goes out, we wait, a little shaken, for the lights to come on.
17, Yosemite, California: My brother and I step out onto the ice and it cracks ominously. He throws a stone, breaking the placid surface of the lake where it is yet unfrozen. I can see bubbles, tiny and fragile, in the clear ice beneath my feet.
19, Bagan, Myanmar: We sit outside a temple on flimsy chairs, sipping sweet coconut juice through pastel plastic straws. The dusty ground is the color of burnished copper, as is everything in this sacred region. Behind us, miniature wooden puppets hang spookily in a tree, the late afternoon sun casting strange shadows. Later, we cycle by starlight over treacherous dirt roads past fields of dry, uncut grass and the sensation of flight, of freedom, is exhilarating.
How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
Sage advice by Barry Lopez.
I am an unabashed politics nerd. Since I’m settled in the politically-neutral, one-party-dominant state of Singapore, grazing with the herd, US politics are always exciting to me. Sure, infuriating things like political deadlock, lobbying and debates about abortion come with America, but I like the principle of airing things out in the open, where there’s real public criticism which is the true essence a deliberative democracy (rather than apathetic, passive assent). This is also the reason behind my obsession with The Newsroom…
I’m gearing up to read Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. The complex web of US politics, talk about the Tea Party, Republicans, GOP, the Donkey and the Elephant, neo-liberalism, Obamacare can be daunting to outsiders especially Singaporeans who have only experienced a very simple political system. This wonderful data chart by Information Is Beautiful will help. Though I don’t think they got the Right correct; pretty sure the Right wants interference in social lives (to enforce conservative and ridiculously outdated social norms see aggressive abortion debates etc.) just not intervention that benefits people on issues like healthcare or immigration. What the Right doesn’t want is interference with the economy and the market, to let free market principles and capitalism drive the state (to ruin apparently, as seen from the Lehman Brothers minibonds debacle). I am actually very interested to see how a Republican government would handle the problems the Obama administration has faced thus far, given that it was a Republican president that declared America’s War on Terror and put troops down in the Middle East. This seems more and more likely since the Republicans now rule Senate and the House of Reps (which will not facilitate government action in the coming year, naturally).
Incidentally, the left-right political spectrum originates from the French royal courts. According to Wikipedia: In France, where the terms originated, the Left has been called “the party of movement” and the Right “the party of order.” Couldn’t have put it better myself…
Quoting Wikipedia (which is a VERY reliable source for undergrads):
The terms “left” and “right” appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. One deputy, the Baron de Gauville explained, “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.” However the Right opposed the seating arrangement because they believed that deputies should support private or general interests but should not form factions or political parties. The contemporary press occasionally used the terms “left” and “right” to refer to the opposing sides.
When the National Assembly was replaced in 1791 by a Legislative Assembly comprising entirely new members, the divisions continued. “Innovators” sat on the left, “moderates” gathered in the centre, while the “conscientious defenders of the constitution” found themselves sitting on the right, where the defenders of the Ancien Régime had previously gathered. When the succeeding National Convention met in 1792, the seating arrangement continued, but following the coup d’état of June 2, 1793, and the arrest of the Girondins, the right side of the assembly was deserted, and any remaining members who had sat there moved to the centre.
Vincent Brady is in love with the night sky and fireflies; and so are we all. There is a particular phrase that comes to mind, Stanley Kubrick in his interview with Playboy magazine who uttered this truth:
However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
And Brady has done it. If our age is one of disillusionment, terrorism and the degradation of morality, then Brady’s work must be one of the millions of flickering lights out there, to provide respite from the darkness. He captures the stately waltz of planets, stars, galaxies, dark matter in his series ‘Planetary Panoramas’. From the heavens to the earth, where the dazzling displays of fireflies are suspended in time, forever, in his timelapse series on fireflies in the wild. And the message is clear: there is still beauty left in the world. We are part of something extraordinary, all six billion of us. There is something worth treasuring. We have to look no further than the skies above us.
If I may be permitted to share some of his wonderful fine art photography:
And from his Planetary Panoramas:
Give his magical time lapse videos a watch:
Visit his website here.