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The Hidden World of the Nearby

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Life And Art


Why?

Since my early teens I have avidly read astronomy and cosmology, wondering why and how about the universe. I don’t know what prompted this interest. I was also studying classical piano, building high-fidelity audio systems, listening to classical music and my father was taking me to symphony concerts. I photographed somewhat casually, but developed and printed black and white images. I was busy.

A few moments ago I was paying attention to Marta Augarich phrasing the melody of the Schumann piano concerto and looked up to see a large print the the image above which has hung in front of me for 15 years when I noticed that there was phrasing in the image: groups of water-shields, light color covered most of the images. I am pleased that in my 80th year I am able to notice such things.

Water-shields at Wyman Meadow near Walden Pond, October 19, 1991

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly this connects to my current interests in cosmology which in turn connects to how humankind has brought itself to its present state. This is a an intense preoccupation at this stage in my life, wondering what knowledge humans do not have that they should have, for I believe that if your soul is captured by art you will experiencce beauty and joy that make cruelity and jealosy less likely, although it does not eliminate it.

My science background included problem sets in physics: “derive from first principles,” which means to start at the most basic of physical lawas and to figure out the rest. This is part 1. Part 2 is to put this in context and the only context meaninging full to me is the creation, the origin of the universe itself, the beginning of space and time, what we usually call the big bang which must seem a bit odd but after much reading and thinking I believe that the fundamental roots of the joy we experience from the Schumann and from this image were in place in the big bang and consequently whatever it was that led to the creation had beauty and joy “in mind.”

The other side of the coin it that our creation included a brain/mind capable of creations this art and experiencing the beauty and joy it embodies. Ths is my definition of the Why of life. uiiuii i biugbgubi f g

g ufuug/p>What is it that we don’t know?

The answer to every important question.

And why should we care? Because it will affect everything about our lives.

Oh! And what might that be?

Let’s begin with a really simple one, as a good scientist might, with the simplest question we can think of: Why? In this case Jim Holt and his wonderful TED talk and book subtitled “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Since the beginning of civilization the answer has been God, and for most of civilization it still is. But there is a great irony here. Our minds, whom God was suposed to have created, have shed a clarifying light on the subject, not rejecting God, but adding enormously to what Scripture or anything other writing had to say. Of course the method was science and truly believed or even known by only a few.

Science tells us that time and space began as a “singularity” most know as the big bang. It doesn’t answer the big quesion “Why?” but it tells us of what happened an instant after the the big bang and what happened sets the context of all life.

The context elevates Life, or does it we know it and without which we demean it and will ultimately destroy it.

The context is all that has happened to bring you and me and everything else into existance and makes us think, especially where this amazing journey is taking us. I rarely if ever hear an answer proposed, certainly not in a presidential debate, nor in a cosmologists discourse on “theories of everything.” No guesses, no dogma, no scholarly dissertation. Nothing.

But one day I asked myself if there might be a way to know and the beginning of an answer was: “Well, what is the best life has to offer, the moments, experiences and we consciously or unconsciously work for.” And it stuck me, for I was in the middle of it in many ways and thought it must be beauty and joy. Where else to go after that.

Beauty and joy can mean many different things. Naturally I will focus on those most important and meaningful to me.

Beauty and joy rely on the sublime which in turn relies on sentience, our ability to experience.

First of all you have to be able to experience the sublime, know what it is, be able to recognize it and then give yourself over to it.

The first one that comes to mind is my conversations with my wife over breakfast. What is so special about that? We know each other, have a shared history and can laugh, cry, be glad or sad or marvel about something. We exist. Separately and together. We have sentience. It is day to day but is not easily achieved. Getting to it may be quite painful at times.

Three subjects enthral us. Our son, Gregory who we adoped from Sochi, Russia and his struggles and joy. His daughter, our grand daughter, lovely beyond words. And then there is Mahler.

Now most people do not know who Gustav Mahler is, but he is a composer of sublime music and I have chosen him to represent music because he brought Susan and me together in a phone conversation between two classical music freaks that climaxed with “...and then there’s Mahler” when I immediately suggested we meet for dinner.

When I could not figure out from my study of cosmology, psychology, philosophy and religion what was the purpose of the universe and thought that perhaps simply asking what was the best of life and two words came to mind: joy and beauty. This is where things peak, but not easily.

For Susan and myself music, and that means mostly classical music, is an essential life of our souls and it is so because we both have made classical music a central part of our lives she professionally and myself in many different ways. Doing this has led to our ability to experiece music, even complex music, appreciate what it takes to create it but above all appreciate what it does to our souls, and I believe it is the one way we get, well, to the bottom (or top) of things. But there is the crucial ability to hear, because over many years we have gotten pretty good at understanding the language of music.

An image comes to mind: and that is of having been been born and raised in a country we loved and left many years ago and we suddenly return and hear our native language spoken, and see the dress and manners of the people, and hear their (our) music and it is as if we connect with a new and sublime world.

I feel this because I grew up in Polish America. Everything was Polish and recently I watched a video of a beautiful perforance by a Polish folk ensemble dance and sing the Krakoviak, one of the five Polish national dances. It touched everything within me and then I heard a melody, not just any melody but one my father had taught me as a child to play on the piano along with him playing the violin. And that was joy and beauty.

There is infinitely more to joy and beauty, but I will leave it for you to carry on the conversation and I will turn to my life of making photographs and spring on our back porch.

Mahler, of course, repsents all of art and especially these photograhs, for they are intended to be beautiful and bring joy, but the making of them is joy, joy levened with mounds of struggle, but just as five hours at the key board for practice is aimed at the sublime, so is every instance of focusing a camera.

Is this the end? It is barely the beginning because most of the world if fighting a different and tragic battle, especially in late 2020 as I write this.

Found And Lost


And then found again.

What was lost is the red tree below, for it is now too warm here and Walden Pond (above) and all the surrounding area no longer give me the fall I once had. But I sill have spring and the two magnificant oaks just behind our home that rise so high I have to photograph them looking straight up. And the sky one day this spring was bluer than I ever thought possible.

It may seem trivial to have lost red foiliage, but it is symptom of a loss to the universe itself. It is a local reminder that the earth should be in intensive care, and it is not. Many people, especially scientists, know it is the greatest loss in human history, but they act as if their feet were glued to the floor. I say this despite the many organizations and individuals fighting for the climate. What’s wrong?

There is something that has prevented the kind of response that is necessary, that concerned scientists would become angry, determined scientist insistant on the proper response no matter the opposition, a movement. Instead there seems to be a fear in those fighting the environment. I think two things are behind that fear: 1) The general grasp of science is too weak to respond; 2) Those that have made up their minds that there is really nothing wrong, they have taken over the power centers and intimidate. They have lost the connections to beauty and joy and replaced it by love of power and money.

I have always presumed that a photographer of the landscape would find a new way to express how light and nature together create something suggestive of heaven, or perhaps better, and I have experienced just that feeling. It takes a sunny spring day under the two massive oaks in our back yard. The sky is twenty times more blue than that I show here. The greatest blue I have ever experienced, a blue that I cannot make appear here or anywhere except in my mind. But a gentle breeze blew and my thought was that heaven did not need streets paved with gold, but a blue sky, a breeze and trees coming into leaf.

Exuberant Spring I

But this seems a rarety and that much of humanity is not aware of the price it is paying. We do not realize that most of humanity is not aware of itself, it is a world too close to see. It reminds me of “the hidden world of the nearby.”

Now just four years after my 75th birthday there is no other way to put it but that the world has turned upside down.

I have neglected my photography and studied climate change and for over two years spent twelve or more hours each day, seven days a week, on a website caringfortheearth.com. The effort, of course was fruitless for everything changed so rapidly the web site is a hodge-podge of obsolete or repeated sections but you may still be able to read the remnants. I made my own calculations of what would happen to the earth between now and 2100. They sadly agree surprisingly well with the predictions being made now in late 2020. The conclusion of a 6° C temperature rise in 2100 is stated accurately as being “catastrophic for everyone.”

So thoughts of nature and light turn to thoughts of the miracles of earth and humanity.

The human mind is a miracle for giving us the experience of the miracle of nature. Humanity itself is a tragedy of literally cosmic proportions for beginning the destruction of the earth as we have known it and virtually guaranteeing that what is left will be figuratively, if not literally, as ashes are to a fire.

Ipswich Sunset

“Cosmic” may seem too strong a word but it is not as I think about what is happening. The loss is incalculable in any context but in the true cosmological context.

Simple calculations suggest the possibility that planets with human-like life may be very rare. It is, despite strong objections from some segments of science, concievable that it is the only one. Within the Milky Way galaxy a powerful effort to listen for radio signals, the so-called Seach for Extra-terristral Intelligence (SETI) has yielded nothing in spite of expensive upgrades after 40 years of listening.

There is, of course, much great foliage to be found north and west but fall now comes without a peep (pun not intended). November is now Indian Summer where we used to hope for 2 or 3 days without a cold rain. Winter is shorter but many will say “my goodness, it got down to 15° F.” In my childhood that would have been minus 20° F. Thirty-five degrees colder kills many pests and the Covid-19 virus now has a much wider range for the bats range wider as we have destroyed their natural habitat.

I don’t pack my 4" x 5" any longer. Whatever work I may have time left to do will be in the studio. But most of my time will be telling other parts of this story. And my work will have to make my statments for me.

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