Keplers Space mission focuses on a narrow spectrum of the universe, searching for exoplanets.
I have just finished producing another project, and it has been so stimulating finding out about how modern space missions have a history that goes back to the discoveries in the 1600’s by one very determined Johannes Kepler.
If you spin back into the times that he was alive in, imagine the determination he needed to pursue an intellectual curiosity in how the universe REALLY worked. By observation and very clever calculation he came up with theorems that threatened the dogma instructed by the Church, and ultimately the states of the time. This was a time of upheaval and power clashes between European leaders, a time when the idea of liberal thought was centuries away. Not only was he under the intellectual pressure from determining how he could present his ideas to contemporaries, but under real threat of exclusion or worse.
Pursuing his aim to explain the movement of the stars, Kepler discovered what we now refer to as Kepler’s Laws, on which Newton was to build upon and explain how gravity works. It is with Kepler’s explanation that man came to understand Earth’s position in the universe, leading to the growth of modern scientific thought. Before his time, men looked to the heaven’s and believed in astrological explanations for life and death, catastrophe and fate. Astrologers were keepers of portentous knowledge used by kings and leaders in decision making. The new scientific discoveries would blow apart the rationales behind that sort of thinking. Kepler himself could not have known the trajectory of exploration which his studies triggered. Although he had dreamed of a man standing on the moon and looking at the earth, he would never know of todays space mission named after him , which is discovering exoplanets in habitable space.
His thinking nevertheless did not preclude the mystery and incomprehsibility of Life, he referred to God as being ‘in the numbers’, understanding geometry and God to be the same force. The scientific thinkers such as Einstein, Carl Sagan and Neil de Grasse Tyson retain a humility and open minded approach to the marvel of the Universe. Their awe is directed to the manisfestation that is the Universe, and it with the examination by such beacons that mankind can pursue hope toward the future.
Carl Sagan described Kepler as “the first astrophysicist and the last scientific astrologer.”, while Kepler himself said
Researching Johannes Kepler and listening to my son’s interest in space mission provoked me to explore my thoughts about scientific enquiry alongside the wisdom of other thinkers throughout history. As I learn more, I see patterns in thought, how we expand our own horizons by entering the realms of thinkers from different cultures, different times. I named my project ‘Concordance’ to reference the harmonies Kepler perceived in the geometric principles , and the understanding of artists, scientists and philosophers that human kind benefits from discovering harmonies between science and nature, between disparate cultures, and between the body and the mind.
How gorgeous is this? William Morris led the Art and Crafts movement during the 1860’s in Britain. His politics led him to be the leading representative of libertarian Socialism for a time, but his abiding love was for the arts and literature. Friends with the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, he married Jane Burden, who became the Jane Morris with whom Dante Gabriel Rossetti was besotted with, and with whom she had a long lasting affair during her marriage to William.
William Morris’s love for decoration led to the wonderful fabric designs that continue to be used world wide, rich with the imagery from nature and the brilliance of his use of colour.
What may be lesser known about the man was his deep interest in medievalism, and his gothic interest in fantasy led him to write ‘A Tale of the House of the Wolfings and All the Kindreds of the Mark ‘. This tale may have been the precursor of the modern fantasy genre so popular today. The story influenced the great J.R.R. Tolkein who referenced it as an important influence on his work of art ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
The following illustrations are by Edward Burne Jones for William Morris’s unfinished book of ‘The Earthly Paradise’. Morris carved most of the wood blocks himself, and these were rediscovered in the 1960’s.
This artist, writer, thinker reaches out from his time to my own, and inspires my own interests in medieval illumination and typographic interest alongside political aspirations of a shared human vision to incorporate the individual in a collective experience of beauty and wonder.
Next project reveals itself as an epic. There are parts of Walt Whitman’s marvelous poem that I want to record in one of my handmade books.
I have only just started compiling the extracts, it is an ongoing project which I am going to thoroughly enjoy. The illustrations are from botanical illustrations from 1821 by J.Th.Descourtilz.
Do you know Walt Whitman’ s poem and if you do, what does it mean to you?
I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:
Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.
However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.
But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.
With cordial greetings,
your A. Einstein
Sometimes Einstein is misrepresented about his view on religion, in fact he was unequivocal in his view, while retaining a healthy respect in mystery and the limit of human knowledge. As a leading scientist and a vastly respected thinker, his view about religion is important to me. I know very little , and I refer to thinkers such as he to guide my own position. After having read recently Andrew Marrs ‘History of the World’, I am further convinced of the worldliness of all the major religions. There is much about human attempts to influence history and how religion was used as a tool by leaders and thinkers. Some of those thinkers I can believe were genuine in their beliefs, but misguided, others plainly were manipulators.
Einstein wrote this to Eric Gutkind from Princeton in January 1954, translated from German by Joan Stambaugh.
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.
In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolization. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.
Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e; in our evaluations of human behavior. What separates us are only intellectual ‘props’ and ‘rationalization’ in Freud’s language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.
With friendly thanks and best wishes,
Yours, A. Einstein
I think that clears up the question for me. I still experience a deep connection between living beings, I still want to believe in the idea of a collective responsibility and a collective understanding that we all can tap into. I believe in the powers of love, and faith and hope. I just don’t believe they are attached to a Divine being, separate from the cosmos. I think our responsibility lies in this world, to one another, to other living beings and to the planet. What about you?
I get so excited by all the knowledge and the creative output that has been achieved by the inhabitants of this tiny planet ovre such a relatively short period that I want to explode with the joy of it.
There is such alot of our modern world that I am repelled by, the greed and the violence, the selfishness and the lack of compassion. But that is just the opposite side of the coin, and the brilliance of mind, the hope that comes from meeting people who are truly living their lives with compassion, and the miracle of being human is the flip side.
Wislawa Szymborska, poet extraordinaire says it better than I do.
Enjoy the day.
A stunning poem came my way, and I had to feature it in my latest book project.
For you, here is the poem
We are surrounded by the absurd excess of the universe.
By meaningless bulk, vastness without size,
power without consequence. The stubborn iteration
that is present without being felt.
Nothing the spirit can marry. Merely phenomenon
and its physics. An endless, endless of going on.
No habitat where the brain can recognize itself.
No pertinence for the heart. Helpless duplication.
The horror of none of it being alive.
No red squirrels, no flowers, not even weed.
Nothing that knows what season it is.
The stars uninflected by awareness.
Miming without implication. We alone see the iris
in front of the cabin reach its perfection
and quickly perish. The lamb is born into happiness
and is eaten for Easter. We are blessed
with powerful love and it goes away. We can mourn.
We live the strangeness of being momentary,
and still we are exalted by being temporary.
The grand Italy of meanwhile. It is the fact of being brief,
being small and slight that is the source of our beauty.
We are a singularity that makes music out of noise
because we must hurry. We make a harvest of loneliness
and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.
It became the focus and inspiration for my exploration of a new book project.
This handmade small book is a lovingly crafted individual piece of work that attempts to reflect the wonder and the majesty of being human through poetry, observation and artwork. It features as it’s main focus a poem by Jack Gilbert. This is a poem that reflects my own feelings of paradox and powerlessness in a complicated, curious world. That is why I have called the project ‘phenomenon’, drawn from the poem /
Jack Gilbert may not be as known to the English audience, but his poetry is inspired by the likes of Ezra Pound and T.S .Eliot, and he combines a meticulous use of language with the control of a master, so that the reader is drawn in and can feel meaning. That is the power of good poetry, the encapsulation and distilling of ideas and feelings, in an attempt to communicate meaning.
I chose Kandinsky’s ‘Circles’ as the visual accompaniment to the poem, and for me it works wonderfully well. I wanted to marry these visions of expanse with the historical expressions of how the universe was once depicted.. We live in an expanding universe, and a personal world of continual renewal and exploration. Human’s have always experienced the world as an environment of change, and it is our challenge to develop methods to sustain ourselves and our companions on this fascinating planet .
If you want to see more of my hand made books you don’t need to go far, there are some featured in this blog on My Etsy Page.
Drawing on inspiration from mediaeval manuscripts, I was bowled over by the beauty with which they illustrated their reading matter. I wanted to meld the frames that they laboured over with inspirational writing that has transformed the way I think. My character has been formed by what I have read, the thoughts of men and women that have lived different lives from me have continually shaped the way I think and feel about my own life, have broadened my perspective and helped me to dig into my own feelings about what life means.
From Shakespeare to Tolstoy, Einstein to Tagore, and to more contemporary wirters, Bryan Appleyard, David Foster Wallace, Dorothy Rowe, Doris Lessing.
Thank goodness for writers, thinkers and artists everywhere.
Below are some pictures taken from Medieval illustrations which can be seen at the British Museum and the Bodleian Libraries.