Crystals of iodine taken in a test tube would sublime at room temperature; they’d pass directly from the solid state to the gaseous state. A purple waft is all that remains. For a while.
We all live in the sublime. Where else can we live? That is the only place of life.
… All that happens to us is divinely great, and we are always in the centre of a great world. But we must accustom ourselves to live like an angel who has just sprung to life, like a woman who loves, or a man on the point of death. If you knew that you were going to die to-night, or merely that you would have to go away and never return, would you, looking upon men and things for the last time, see them in the same light that you have hitherto seen them? Would you not love as you never yet have loved?”
― Maurice Maeterlinck, The Treasure of the humble
Science begins in wonder, but it definitely goes forth with observation.
Think: a simple titration, a microscopy experiment or even amateur star gazing. All of these have observation occupying centre-stage. All science is dependent on observation.
Observation Notebook. Ring a bell? That notebook in the laboratory where you are required to record all your ‘observations’. Because, it is based on those observations, that you arrive at a ‘result’ for that experiment.
“Facts have to be discovered by observation, not by reasoning,” said Bertrand Russell. And that’s your famous empiricism versus rationalism argument all right!
Flaubert once said originality stems from intense observation. Continuing on this line of thought, Mary Oliver, one of the writers I admire, wrote:
I love the line of Flaubert about observing things very intensely. I think our duty as writers begins not with our own feelings, but with the powers of observing.
And Oliver has reiterated this truth of hers again and again in her oeuvre.
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
– Excerpted from Sometimes.
To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.
– Excerpted from Yes! No!
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
– Excerpted from The Summer Day.
Everything that Oliver has written is a testament to observation being the cornerstone of her writing and life.
Here’s how she begins her poem “The Notebook“.
Six a.m. –
the small, pond turtle lifts its head into the air like a green toe.
It looks around.
And here’s how her poem “Mindful” opens.
Every day I see or hear something that more or less
kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle
in the haystack of light. It was what I was born for – to look, to listen,
to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over
in joy, and acclamation.
Observe. Write. Live.
Mindful living needs observation. It requires being in the moment. How long is a moment, do you ask? I know, and I don’t.
I love what Jiddu Krishnamurti has to say on observing thought.
There is no knowledge of tomorrow, only conjecture as to what might happen tomorrow, based on your knowledge of what has been. A mind that observes with knowledge is incapable of following swiftly the stream of thought. It is only by observing without the screen of knowledge that you begin to see the whole structure of your own thinking. And as you observe – which is not to condemn or accept, but simply to watch – you will find that thought comes to an end. Casually to observe an occasional thought leads nowhere. But if you observe the process of thinking and do not become an observer apart from the observed, if you see the whole movement of thought without accepting or condemning it, then that very observation puts an end immediately to thought – and therefore the mind is compassionate, it is in a state of constant mutation.
As I write this, I am reminded of a scene from Before Sunrise.
How’s that for an observation for being mindful?
Observe. That is all.
I am on an exciting trip in my head. I am thinking of certain words – of what they do in science and what they do in literature. Whoever it was who said words have power, was very right!
I am taking on ‘luminescence’ today. But I am certain I will be posting on many such words in the days to come, for the journey these words take me on is truly awe-inspiring.
Luminescence is the emission of light by a material after it has absorbed energy.
– Solid State Chemistry and its Applications.
by Anthony R. West
Pictured below is a solution of luminol under UV light.
An Apprenticeship is written by Clarice Lispector.
One of the pages in the book reads: Luminescence.
I haven’t read the book, but I am moved by Lispector’s writing. Currently reading her A Breath of Life.
Google Books tells me this little something about An Apprenticeship:
An Apprenticeship is Clarice’s attempt to discover just how two people might be joined. Lori’s is not an easy journey, and consequently the book is roughly written, lurching, sometimes giving the impression of an incomplete first draft.
it contains some of the most beautiful passages Clarice ever wrote.
– Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector
Moser further writes that this is the book where Lispector uses rather avant-garde devices in punctuation. It famously begins with a comma and ends with a colon, he adds. Words aren’t properly capitalised either.
On reading this, my mind immediately raced to Aram Saroyan.
Saroyan is an American poet known for his minimalist poetry. In the 1960s Saroyan stopped the literary world in its tracks and caused a lot more than eyebrows to be raised when he wrote his single word misspelled poem smack-dab in the centre of a sheet of paper. It was:
Disruptive luminescence. Closing the post with that welcome thought.
Nothing exists except atoms and empty space, everything else is opinion.
― Democritus of Adbera, 400 BC
Democritus’ atom had no weight, and no tendency to combine until random motion brought them together to form the world.
Matter, though divisible in an extreme degree, is nevertheless not infinitely divisible. That is, there must be some point beyond which we cannot go in the division of matter. … I have chosen the word “atom” to signify these ultimate particles.
— John Dalton
Dalton’s Manuscript Notes, Royal Institution Lecture 18 (30 Jan., 1810).
In Ida Freund, The Study of Chemical Composition: An Account of its Method and Historical Development (1910), 288.
Dalton’s atomic theory postulates compounds are formed by a combination of two or more different kinds of atoms.
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together.
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Combinations, yet again. Paramount!
Kaathal Annukkal Udambil Ethanai
(Neutron Electron Un Neelakkannil Motham Ethanai?)
― Vairamuthu, Endhiran, 2010
Here’s my translation of this blockbuster Tamil song’s opening lines.
Your body, how many love atoms does it have
(Your blue eye, how many neutrons and electrons in all does it have?)
Atoms tunnel through the boundary between science and literature.