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Ariel and Eric, or what?
That shit is cold.
Dig that shade of pen.
This deserves so many reblogs.
Feminism is having a wardrobe malfunction.
Does your brand of feminism remove barriers for women, or simply move them around? Does is expand options for women, or does it just shift them? You don’t liberate women by forcing them to choose option B instead of option A. What is comfortable for you might not be comfortable for someone else, and it’s entirely possible that what you see as oppressive, other women find comfortable or even downright liberating.
Some women would feel naked without a veil. Some women would find it restrictive. Some women would feel restricted by a bra. Some women would feel naked without one. Some women would feel restricted by a tight corset. Others love them. Some wear lots of clothes with a corset. Some only wear the corset and nothing else. What makes any article of clothing oppressive is someone forcing you to wear it. And it’s just as oppressive to force someone not to wear something that they want to wear.
Click thru for listens.
As previously reported, sludge rockers Melvins recruited Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary and bassist J.D. Pinkus to join them in recording their upcoming 23rd studio album, Hold It In. Already, the one-off supergroup has previewed the October 14th release with the country-fried “Brass Cupcake” and the voluminous “Bride of Crankenstein”.
Today, they unveil another of the album’s 12 tracks with the — um, delightfully titled “Sesame Street Meat”. Here, the four-piece achieve the apex of Melvins’ particular brand of visceral, deeply nihilistic sludge metal. Guitars smash and wail like blown-out power tools, drums plod along with the grace of some Godzilla nemesis, and Buzz Osborne croons like some mid-level demon in an Elvis Presley cover band. It’s dark, menacing, and totally frightening; and, yes, it will totally make you think of Snuffleupagus being torn apart by rabid wolves.
“This track is one of the first songs we recorded together,” drummer Dale Crover told The Quietus. “I love Jeff’s slinky little bass line that comes in around the 3rd measure! Then the whole band kicks in and just crushes you like a bug! One of my faves! I can’t wait to play it live!”
Listen in below.
In support of Hold It In, the trio of Osborne, Crover, and Pinkus will embark on a US tour in October. Consult their full schedule here.
My lab in the news (ish).
So, there's the city and then there's the country, the built environment and the wilderness, nature and civilization. Whatever name the dichotomy goes by, we usually think of the world humans create and the world outside their creations as separate and unequal.
But as we enter the Anthropocene — an era in which human activity represents a principle driver of planetary changes — it may be time to rethink this ancient polarity. It's a question that has more than academic importance. How we resolve this split may have a lot to do with our chances for creating a technological society that can last for more than a century or so. That's because the Anthropocene is really the "Age of the City."
Since the dawn of cities some 8,000 years ago, we have always lived between the poles of the world we built and the world outside. The city and nature are the Ying and Yang of human experience, with a host of assumptions, ethics and values pinned to either side.
The city was civilization and the world outside its gates was chaos and danger. On the other hand, the city was the nexus of corruption, while the natural environment was an unspoiled Eden, an original wilderness requiring protection from our greed.
But now, more than half the people on the planet live in a city or a suburb of one. And it's projected that by 2050, more than 80 percent of all human beings will be living in urban areas. That is why the Anthropocene and the city are so strongly coupled. It's the resource needs of cities, and the feedback those needs generate, that are so strongly affecting the planet. What scientists call the "coupled Earth systems" of atmosphere — hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere and biosphere — are changing because of our cities and their requirements. That is why all our city building now makes traditional distinctions between the natural environment and the built environment less meaningful.
To understand the breadth of urbanization's impact, consider what Steven Koonin, the director of NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress, calls the "Dark Spaces." When you look at a map of the Earth at night, what you see are cities showing up as dense luminous webs of light. You also see thin tendrils of highways that connect the cities. Beyond that, there are large sections of Dark Space. But while these Dark Spaces might seem the true domain of wilderness, the truth is more far more complex.
Look around a city and what do you see? Cars, streetlights, air conditioners, heating units. All of them consume energy. But where does that energy come from? It originates in places like the oil-rich Alberta Tar Sands or West Virginia's mountain top removal coal mining. It comes from something the writer Venkat Rao has called "Hamiltonian Cathedrals" (after Alexander Hamilton and his vision of American industrialization). Hamiltonian Cathedrals are the sites of vast industrial-scale resource development. But in spite of their scale, Hamiltonian Cathedrals are, generally, entirely hidden to world of the city dweller.
Those vast scales of resource extraction in the Dark Spaces are needed to feed the ever-growing cities in which we humans now choose to live. It's the feedback of all that resources consumption in cities (as in climate change) that means there is little space on the planet that can truly be thought of as "untouched." And as Luis Bettencourt, a physicist at the Santa Fe Institute who works on cities, notes:
"...the way we've been drawing these resources from nature and into the cities is simply not sustainable. An urbanized planet will need more energy but it is crucial we get it in different ways: that is possible but requires massive change."
Something, therefore, has to change — and our polar ideas of of nature vs. civilization may be the first thing that needs to go.
This week, I was in Seattle working with University of Washington professor Marina Alberti, who leads the Urban Ecology Research Lab. Dr. Alberti is a wonderfully creative researcher who likes to think in terms of cities as "hybrid ecosystems." She takes the idea of "hybrids" from genetics. Hybrids can be a step along the way to developing new species. Seeing the city as a hybrid ecosystem means thinking about how cities depend on the natural flows of water, clean air and soil to function properly. It also means seeing how cities change those flows to create something new that didn't exist before. For example, recent studies have shown how vacant lots create new habitats and road corridors can function as routes of seed dispersal for many plant species. Researchers also have seen some songbirds changing their behavior in urban environments as compared to natural ones.
These examples show plants and animals creating new behaviors in the environments we created for ourselves. As we come to understand that response more deeply, there's the possibility for cities themselves to change with the goal of becoming more resilient and sustainable in the face of the Anthropocene challenges. It's about human and natural systems evolving together.
This possibility of "co-evolution" means cities will need to become far more responsive to what used to be thought of as nature lying outside their domains. It means recognizing how deeply the city relies on natural systems and thinking creatively about working with those systems rather than paving everything over.
There are, for example, ideas about edging coastal cities with wetlands for storm surge protection. Then there is urban farming — including their most radical version, the vertical skyscraper farm. Whether these ideas can work or not, each is an attempt to rethink how the natural world appears within and serves urban spaces.
One concrete strategy for addressing this issue of sustainability and resilience is to make cities act more like nature. Think about how forests get everything they need from whatever moves through where they stand. Building cities that use this principle is called biomimicry — and it means bringing more of the services nature provides to the city back within its confines.
I had a chance to see this in practice during a visit to the Bullitt Center in Seattle, which is billed as one of the "greenest buildings in the world." You can think of it as "extreme green." All the water and all the power the building needs are drawn from whatever falls on this multi-story building and its site. The roof splays away from the buildings walls like the canopy of a tree maximizing the surface area for solar collection (while the building draws power from the grid in the winter it generates enough electricity in the summer to make up the difference). Extending from the third floor there is a wetlands "garden" (complete with horsetails) that purifies the building's water before returning it back to the ground.
With all of its innovations, the Bullitt Center is designed to be an experiment in biomimicry (among other ideas). And it seems to be working. After a year in operation, the Bullitt has shown that it is possible to become more fully "passive" in terms of resource impact.
So do we have to live with the nature vs. city split?
There will always be a day-to-day distinction between living in urban spaces and getting away into nature. But as far as our civilization building goes, we need to go beyond the old distinctions. With the dawning of the Anthropocene we've become a true planetary species. That's what gets the astronomer in me really interested. With all our city building, it's the entire planet that we're changing now. And once we get to that scale, the distinction between nature and not-nature has to get updated. We need a perspective that's more sustainable and more resilient if we're going to make it for another 100, 500 or 5,000 years.
If we're building cities that affect the entire planet, maybe its time to starting thinking like one. Maybe it's time to think how nature and cities can evolve together.
We should take it personally to the point of delivering infinite cock punches to to the shit heels who perpetrate this garbage.
In her famous 1996 commencement address, writer Nora Ephron warned the new graduates of Wellesley college that they were entering a world that was hostile to women's achievements and begged them to to "take it personally."
"Understand," she said, "every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you." We must all take such attacks personally, she argued: "Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: Get back, get back to where you once belonged."
On September 21, actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson stood up at the UN Headquarters in New York City and delivered a powerful speech condemning the harm that gender discrimination causes to both men and women, and inviting men to become active participants in the global struggle for equality. The next day, anonymous individuals from the message board 4chan set up a website targeting Watson with sexual threats, counting down the five days until, presumably, her private nude images will be made public. The threats against Watson are an attack on me - and I take them personally. We all need to.
The site threatening Watson was greeted with glee on 4chan and Reddit, where commenters explicitly stated their hope that the threats would force her to abandon her feminist campaigning. "If only her nudes got leaked and she had the load on her face. Her feminism kick would be over," a commenter wrote. "If this is true her recent feminism rally is going to be shutdown hard," wrote another. "Feminism," one 4chan user opined, "is a growing cancer."
Watson is in the company of many other women, all over the world, who have made the decision to participate in public life and suffered the consequences.
Watson is not the only one being told to "get back" by misogynists who wield sexual terror as a weapon. She is in the company of many other women, all over the world, who have made the decision to participate in public life and suffered the consequences. Writers on feminist issues, deluged with rape threats: get back. Activists from Syria, to Sudan, to the Congo, raped in prison: get back. South African lesbians, raped to "correct" their sexuality: get back.
Those threats and attacks are especially powerful, because they are aided by the pervasive, deeply-held idea that women have a responsibility to alter their behavior in order to avoid sexual violence. When CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was assaulted in Tahrir Square, a barrage of comments and tweets asserted that she should have known better than report from Egypt, which surely wasn't safe for a woman. (Get back.) When online pundits heard that rapes of college women are horrifyingly pervasive, they warned female students to stop drinking. (Get back.) When a series of rapes were reported in Haryana, India, local politicians urged that the solution was for girls to be married off as young teens. (Get back.) Even when the impulse is protective, the demand that women be the ones to change is, essentially, a demand that we shape our lives around the whims of sexual predators, not our own needs or ambitions, or the contributions we can make to the world.
And it gets even worse. How often have we seen a woman's sexual history used not only to shame and discredit her, but as a justification for not protecting her from harm? We saw it in the response to the leaks of other stolen celebrity photos earlier this month, when, as Kelsey McKinney wrote for Vox, hashtags like #Ifmyphonewerehacked blamed victims for criminals' violation of their privacy. We saw it when a Montana judge sentenced a male teacher to only 30 days in prison for raping his 14-year-old student, on the basis that their "relationship" suggested that she was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the 49-year-old perpetrator.
How often have we seen a woman's sexual history be used as a justification for not protecting her from harm?
Those three problems - women being threatened, women being pressured to change their own behavior to avoid sexual assault, and women being told that they don't deserve protection unless they stay pure and ladylike - are all individually terrible. But together, they add up to something even worse: a vicious cycle that pressures women out of public life. When we tell women that the threats and attacks they experience are their own fault, for failing to be sufficiently chaste or failing to take "responsible" precautions, we are telling them that they are on their own: that they cannot rely on society's protection against those crimes. How many women hear that message and decide that they have no choice but to give up that activist campaign or to turn down that higher-profile job or to hold off on writing that article? How hard will it be for UN Women to recruit its next Goodwill Ambassador?
Emma Watson makes a wonderful UN Goodwill Ambassador. If the campaign she champions is successful, she will have done tremendous good in the world. There is nothing about her private, consensual sexual life that has any bearing on the value of her work, the validity of her feminist views, or her integrity as a person. If her stolen nude photos are leaked on the internet in retaliation for her work, that will not mean that she was irresponsible or reckless, it will mean that she is brave.
Regardless of whether any photos are released, the threats against Watson are already an attack on all of us. And we should all take it personally.
Lord, yes. See, this is why me and cats are tight.
So, this is pretty insane. via willowbl00
An off-and-on customer of OfficeMax, Mike Seay has gotten the office supply company’s junk mail for years. But the mail that the grieving Lindenhurst, Ill., father said he got from OfficeMax last week was different. It was addressed to “Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash.” Strange as that sounds, the mail reached the right guy. Seay’s daughter Ashley, 17, was killed in a car crash with her boyfriend last year. OfficeMax somehow knew. And in a world where bits of personal data are mined from customers and silently sold off and shuffled among corporations, Seay appears to be the victim of some marketing gone horribly wrong.
"Reasons" being firewalling the employee internet, of course.
Sadly accurate representation of how many think of this.
Today’s comic is about music streaming (inspired by @zoecello’s great posts on music business)
Dylan is so good at drawing garbage, you guys.
Art of the day: jetsam.
Ah, Rector. I know that feel.
Detail from page 346 of Family Man, now online!
He’s…he’s having a rough night, guys.
Looking forward to this one.
Li’l bit of the next childhood superheroine redesign project drawing.
I’m exposing Chaos’ addiction. My cat is a faucet-water junkie.
Jango Fett's jam of choice for schooling Dirtbag Obiwan.
This is approximately how annoying I am when I'm in a good mood.
You should probably check.
It was fun to play with the other authors. I hope it was a fun read. If you're visiting for the first time because of it, welcome! Pull up a chair, page through the fiction, feel free to correct my grammar and spelling. :D
I would like to start off by complimenting your self-titled release. As a debut, it’s one of the strongest I’ve ever heard, and on Relapse of all labels. Your sudden appearance has been noted, how did Myrkur come to life?
Thank you for that! And yes, Relapse, they are a good and intelligent record label. It didn’t really come to life as some sort of event, the way a band would. I am just me writing and recording music in my house in Denmark, and I have been doing that for many years. I have lived in that particular house since age 12, and around this time, my grandmother gave me her piano that she bought when she was 16 (and paid off for probably 10 years). She was a classical pianist, but was ultimately told her hands were too small to truly learn the difficult pieces. She gave the piano to me because I have longer fingers.
So, I have made music for many years. Myrkur is a side to me, an expression of what echoes the deepest inside me, and the musical universe I hold most dear to my heart.
In what little information the Internet gleaned regarding Myrkur, I read Relapse signed you based off an experience of hearing you sing in a forest. What was sung that inspired this ambitious signing?
“Du Gamla, Du fria!”
Norse mythology is a common element among black metal. What stories contributed to your album the most?
I write music in a little more abstract way than something that follows a certain story. But I find inspiration in the Ældre Edda, the Icelandic sagas and poems about Aseguderne, Jætterne and man. Perhaps mostly in the goddesses and female figures such as Valkyrier, the female power figure that helped bring the slain warriors into Valhalla.
In the era of Danelagen, more and more evidence points towards female warriors that fought alongside the vikings. These women are called a Skjoldmø (a shield maiden), and I find this thought quite fascinating when you think about what people would like you to believe was women’s role in the 800-900s, or even what women’s role is today. The below painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo depicts a Skjoldmø dying on the battle field.
Your music has an ethereal quality backed by obvious skill; clearly you are not new to black metal. Are there any prior projects of note that you participated in that contribute to the sheer weight of your sound?
I would say many different things have contributed to my musical background. I grew up playing the violin in a symphony orchestra and also piano, and I come from a family of other musicians. And then listening to and singing choral vocals and in girl choirs, as well as Nordic folk-music and folklore.
In having played music prior to Myrkur, what fueled the desire to create a one-person black metal project?
Being isolated a lot and having the freedom to do the kind of music I wish to do, and mix the different sides of myself and sounds that I wish. I just wrote and recorded music with no intention of releasing it or even playing it for anyone. And I think the lack of ‘plans’ with this music from my side turned out to be a positive thing. It gave me freedom to just express what is inside me, with absolutely no thought about what would someone else think of it. In other music projects I do, or bands I have played in or will play in, there tends to be more people involved, and therefore more people to make decisions. For Myrkur, it is only me who decides what is right. Myrkur is the musical expression that is the most sincere and honest for me out of everything that I do.
Your music makes a balancing act of juggling beauty and ugliness, creating something altogether new that transcends both. If there were to be a singular message or feeling you would want a listener to take away from Myrkur, what would it be?
Ultimately, it must be up to the listener what music makes them feel. People associate different sounds with entirely different things from one another. But I can say that I like black metal because it dares you to go into a dark place that few people want to go today. A dark place inside yourself, because we are all made of contrasts, and no one should restrict themselves to being a one-dimensional creature. Or deny their true nature and ancient powers.
Your dedication to black metal is clear, what is it about the style that draws out your voice, in all its forms?
Saying I am dedicated to black metal feels a little limiting, or perhaps a bit vague in today’s era.
As you mention, the music I make resonates in many different musical universes, perhaps resulting in a new sound of its own. So I try to not put a genre label on Myrkur.
But I love, honor and respect the message and sound of black metal that is rooted in nature; in all things pure and frozen, like the Nordic blood that runs in my veins.
Considering your debut is an EP, what details can you divulge about your impending full-length or next release in general?
I wish to continue down this musical path that I am on and explore more. Some of the new songs I am writing at the moment are perhaps a bit more aggressive. But I still love the epic, melodic guitar riffs and the ethereal choral vocals.
Thank you for sharing your time with Cvlt Nation’s readers, do you have any parting words?
Vær hilset fellow metal supporters, I hope you are in a cold and dark place listening to some uncomfortably loud music.
This is kind of a throwback design-wise in some ways.
|Pilot E95S comes with Pilot Con-20 converter and accepts Pilot/Namiki cartridges|
Intern! Hey! Intern!
yuuuuup. (via osiasjota)
In tonight’s comic, we get to the bottom of cats.
I love Ed Wilson. This is indirectly via someone, but I don't remember who now.
“The social drive shaped the uses of imagination. It made it possible for humans to share their invisible inner worlds with each other.”
“Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge,” William Wordsworth wrote in 1798; “it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science.” And yet, perhaps short of Diane Ackerman’s gorgeous poems for the planets and a few scientific papers published in stanzaic form as a prank, the interplay of science and poetry in the pursuit of human knowledge is far from obvious, let alone celebrated, in today’s culture.
One of the most beautiful celebrations of this invisible mutuality took place on December 6, 2012, when literary nonprofit Poets House and the American Museum of Natural History hosted an unusual and wonderful event exploring the intersection of science and poetry — a dialogue between legendary Harvard sociobiologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Their wide-ranging conversation is now collected in The Poetic Species: A Conversation with Edward O. Wilson and Robert Hass (public library), titled after Wilson’s famous description of Homo sapiens as “the poetic species” on account of how heavily our cognitive infrastructure relies upon metaphor and associative thinking.
Since the conversation took place shortly after Wilson’s controversial — highly acclaimed and highly criticized — book The Social Conquest of Earth, Hass begins with a tongue-in-cheek question about how Wilson manages to get in so much trouble. The celebrated scientist answers with extraordinary elegance, speaking to the crucial role of science in opposing dogmas — a task never met without resistance:
Good scientists, like good innovators of any kind, are entrepreneurial, and they’re the ones that are most likely to get into trouble. And I’ve always enjoyed being in trouble. In science, trouble means progress.
One of the most fascinating and timelessly urgent inquiries the two discuss is one of equal concern to science and the humanities — the question of free will. Hass reflects:
On the literary and the philosophical side of things, this debate is about the question of free will, about the relation between human choice and the idea of fate. So many of the old stories are about fate being fulfilled or frustrated. It has always been an intense human fascination, how much freedom we have and whether we have any at all. I remember at a poetry reading in San Francisco once, during the question and answer period, an earnest young woman — she was quite pregnant, I remember—raised her hand and asked if there was such a thing as free will. The old poet Kenneth Rexroth looked at her as if he were a little ashamed of himself for having given the impression that he could answer such a question, and then said, very kindly, “We can’t know, and we have to act as if there is.” I thought that was a good answer.
Responding to Wilson’s assertion that “the deadly violence … seems to be a hallmark of our species” and “it’s our basic nature to be conflicted” — an assertion Stephen Pinker has famously defied — Hass echoes Alan Shlain’s exploration of how the invention of writing usurped female power in society and shares an observation:
For poets it’s always been interesting to notice that the culture that showed up when humans passed over the event horizon of writing was a male warrior culture.
Reflecting on Wilson’s extensive work on the evolution of culture, Hass adds to history’s greatest definitions of art by considering the creative impulse:
One of the interesting things about this idea is that it has so many echoes in art making. Artists almost always start with a kind of play based on elements that are fixed and variable, things that conventions express, set forms in music, set patterns in comedy, fixed rhythms in poetry, on the one hand, and, on the other, departures from those conventions that lead to new ways of seeing and feeling. In a way, it’s the same oscillation, between sensations that make us feel safe, part of the group, and sensations that make us feel free and on our own. The formal imagination in art — the half-conscious shaping that occurs when an artist is at work — is always working on this problem.
Wilson, who has long advocated for the importance of imaginative thinking in science and has previously argued for the cross-pollination of science and the humanities, speaks to the power of art in shaping the evolutionary history of culture:
The humanities, and especially the creative arts, are the natural history of Homo sapiens. The descriptions based on them describe the human condition and human nature in exquisite detail, over and over again in countless situations. When verbal descriptions are novel in style and obedient to the most basic principles of human nature, when they connect old memories, create new images, and stir emotions all together, we call that great literature. The important innovator produces a tableau of relationships in a story that describes not just the particularities of a place in time, but something that is true for humanity as a whole for all time.
Hass considers the social wiring of our brains and how the science of the social imperative, which Wilson has spent decades studying, feeds into the creative heart of our humanity:
The social drive shaped the uses of imagination. It made it possible for humans to share their invisible inner worlds with each other. I often think of this in relation to dreams. Once they could speak, humans could tell each other their dreams. They could find out that everybody has dreams, that there is this parallel world of meaning-making or traveling that goes on in the resting mind.
Wilson agrees, building an elegant bridge back to biology to illuminate the human paradox:
We dream together, and as a result the cultural products of human nature are vastly expanded and enriched. And approaching from the other side of the divide, biology progresses and connects with the humanities. What biology seems to be doing at the moment is to reveal the roots of ambiguity that define human nature. We’ve been talking, for example, about the eternal confliction of the human mind, between self-serving behavior for the individual and for its offspring, versus service to the group. This clash of evolutionary forces can never result in an equilibrium. If it goes too far toward individualism, societies would dissolve. If, on the other hand, it goes too far toward obedience to the group, the group would turn into an ant colony. So, we’re creatively conflicted, moving back and forth between sin and virtue, rebellion and loyalty, love and hate.
He then returns to the reconciliatory power of the humanities, but he echoes Rilke’s famous counsel to live the questions as he adds:
The creative arts are the sharing of our inner desires and humanity’s struggle. The humanities are our way of understanding and managing the conflict between the two levels that created Homo sapiens. The conflict can never be resolved. And we shouldn’t try too hard to reach a resolution. It defines our species and is the fountain of our creativity.
Hass makes a beautiful aside — then again, the entire conversation is a string of asides, which is precisely what makes it so enchanting — about the question of animal consciousness and how it first rattled poets’ belief in human exceptionalism, then enabled an embracing of science as a complementary celebration of the existential mystery:
The idea that every creature has its own reality scared poets at the beginning of the twentieth century, made some of them feel we were groping blindly — it in effect kicked us out of a comfortable anthropocentric community — but it also allowed some modern poets this sense of absolute mystery at the core of existence. It came of knowing that we would never know exactly what a bird’s experience is, or what an ant’s experience is. It has been an unhousing of the imagination, and it was brought on by the thrust of science to be at home in the world by understanding it. It said we move among great powers and mysteries and only glimpse their meanings, the meaning of what it’s like to be another creature, and therefore also the meaning of being a self, a person.
(For more on the history of this inquiry, see Joanna Bourke’s excellent What It Means To Be Human.)
Describing the powerful experience of seeing remarkably accurate 3,000-year-old carvings of birds and fish in the tombs of Cairo, Hass considers once again how science and the arts converge in our quest for meaning and sensemaking:
Science, partly by the kind of patient observation that noticed the hump on the Nile crow’s back and partly by leaps of imagination and by shared testing and dialogue, has made enormous progress in understanding certain things about the world, but the skill of those artists made me feel that we have always been pretty much in the same place with the same kind of knowledge and the same pull back and forth between ways of seeing.
But the sameness of these fundamental ways of seeing is being threatened as these seemingly eternal objects of our fascination — the wild creatures that inspired artists and scientists alike to look closer, to gasp, to wonder — are facing a heartbreaking fate. Wilson addresses this with a naturalist’s cool rigor and a moral philosopher’s passionate conviction:
I am an extremist. I believe in wildernesses. I’ve been there. I’ve studied thousands of species living there, in ecosystems much the same as they were millions of years ago. I believe, I think, in reference to the species that we might still save — and a growing number of them are endangered — that we need parks, big ones, lots more of them. I think we should be thinking about giving a large part of the world’s surface to wild land. To do so is not just being a conservationist — not just saving species — we must hold on to the rest of life… I don’t mean to make a political statement. I’m making a moral statement. We have to develop a new and better ethic to save the rest of life.
And therein, perhaps, lies the great power of poetry as an ally to science — the power to mobilize people’s imagination and open up their hearts for “the rest of life,” for our intricate connection not only with one another but also with all of Earth’s creatures. Hass captures this capacity beautifully:
We have to work at it. Wonder is one place to start. I was asked to go to my granddaughter’s kindergarten class and to talk about poetry. And I didn’t know if I would know how to do it, but I brought the book I had with me—which was the collected Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, and there is a poem of hers called “The Fish,” and it begins, “I caught a tremendous fish.” So I opened the book and said to these little kids, “Just say this poem with me, okay? ‘I caught a tremendous fish,’” and this group of kids all on the floor looked up at me and said, “I caught a tremendous fish.” And — I simplified the imagery a bit — I said, “It was very old and its skin,” and they said, “It was very old and its skin,” and I said, “Looked like roses on old wallpaper.” And they said, “Ooh.”
And I thought, this is a cinch.
Indeed, this is the broader power of art. Riffing off pioneering modernist architect Louis Sullivan’s assertion that art doesn’t fulfill desire but creates it, Hass reflects:
The way in which art creates desire, I guess that’s everywhere. Is there anyone who hasn’t come out of a movie or a play or a concert filled with an unnameable hunger? … To stand in front of one of [Louis Sullivan's] buildings and look up, or in front, say, of the facade of Notre Dame, is both to have a hunger satisfied that you maybe didn’t know you had, and also to have a new hunger awakened in you. I say “unnameable,” but there’s a certain kind of balance achieved in certain works of art that feels like satiety, a place to rest, and there are others that are like a tear in the cosmos, that open up something raw in us, wonder or terror or longing. I suppose that’s why people who write about aesthetics want to distinguish between the beautiful and sublime… Beauty sends out ripples, like a pebble tossed in a pond, and the ripples as they spread seem to evoke among other things a stirring of curiosity. The aesthetic effect of a Vermeer painting is a bit like that. Some paradox of stillness and motion. Desire appeased and awakened.
Wilson sums up with a beautiful — sublime, really — parting thought that captures the heart of the conversation:
Science and art having the same creative wellspring, which I believe can be expressed aphoristically: the ideal scientist thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper.
The Poetic Species is a wonderful read in its entirety, short yet infinitely simulating. Complement it with Wilson’s advice to young scientists and Dorion Sagan on why science and philosophy need each other.Share on Tumblr