Cosmic orphans

Art, blogging, culture, earth, Life, Thoughts

the creation James Tissot 1836 -1902 Teh Jewish Museum


Nearly beginning a new year , and that seems to me to be a good time for some reflection in the company of a reknown anthropologist Loren Eiseley.  He wrote a piece to introduce part of the fifteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and I have included two small quotes to whet your appetite.

It appears to me that what the author is suggesting , is that the human condition is significantly different to that of other species because of the size of our brain which has adapted to intellectual capacities which we ourselves  do not understand or always put to good use.  The future of mankind has often in our history appeared to be either dangerously under threat, or at some sort of crossroads that changes how we live.  These are times we live in too, technology is driving change at a rate that once could not have been dreamt of.  We have threats of climate change which are not inconsiderable.  Everyday living makes demands on all of us that we forget to question, and decisions are multiplied exponentially across the globe which continuously aggravates the existing problems of consumption and availablility of food, water, resources.

Sometimes reflection is necessary, to stop and consider how best we can lead our lives individually and as societies.  Loren narrates how his father explained some of the deeper questions to him as a youngster, after he had come across a turtle that had been riddled with shot.  In that story, LOren’s father describes mankind as a cosmic orphan, struggling to find his way in a difficult, challenging world.

Because man was truly an orphan and confined to no single way of life, he was, in essence a prison breaker. But in ignorance his very knowledge sometimes led from one terrible prison to another. Was the final problem then, to escape himself, or, if not that, to reconcile his devastating intellect with his heart? All of the knowledge set down in great books directly or indirectly affects this problem. It is the problem of every man, for even the indifferent man is making, unknown to himself, his own callous judgment.

I love the power of his storytelling and the insight he displays in his writing, a poetic sensibility which enhances his anthropology.

 “None there be, can rehearse the whole tale.” That phrase, too, contains the warning that man is an orphan of uncertain beginnings and an indefinite ending. All that the archaeological and anthropological sciences can do is to place a somewhat flawed crystal before man and say: This is the way you came, these are your present dangers; somewhere, seen dimly beyond, lies your destiny. God help you, you are a cosmic orphan, a symbol-shifting magician, mostly immature and inattentive without humility of heart. This the old ones knew long ago in the great deserts under the stars. This they sought to learn and pass on. It is the only hope of men.

The whole article can be found here

Image is Tissot  The Creation

Happy New Year to everyone!





In celebration of Earth on Earth Day.

Art, blogging, earth, illustration, Life, poetry

from 16th century illustration



Poem by Anais Nin. Illustration from historical text.

Brave New World – You’re in it!

Art, blogging, Life, poetry, Science

digital illustration Anne CorrIt needs to be said; I am scared. Very scared. The more I read, the more I am made even more anxious about the world that I have introduced new life to. Do I have a burden of guilt for giving birth to two wonderful sons, now 17 and 19?  I have to say I do, because my nervousness is for them, about them, I am parochial in my state of anxiety. There is a selfishness in the human condition and this is mine, I am far more exercised on behalf of my immediate family than I am on the behalf of humanity as a whole. I lack the humanity of Einstein and Sir Martin Rees and the like, who spend their lifetimes battling with the difficulties of the unknown in the hope that humanity is served. Still they scare me these icons, after listening to a TED lecture given my Sir Martin Rees, I am convinced that our paltry intelligence is at its infancy, and that the future of humankind depends on how that intelligence evolves. I was young once, and in that once we lived in a different universe, one that was explained with alternative pictures and language than the one the scientists describe today. I am still getting my head around the fact that there are as many universes as there are grains of sand, (or is that galaxies? I don’t even know my terms of reference). Then there is the fact that there exists as we speak (as I write) , a website dedicated to the ‘Reducing Long-Term Catastrophic Risks from Artificial Intelligence ‘ called the Singularity Institute. ( For an explanation of what they are and do, read an article from the Independent  Suffice to say that these are not fantasists, they are serious scientists looking into the likelihood of seeing the time when technological advance leads to a transformation of the human existence, whether that be by cryogenics or AI. We are moving toward a time when to be human will be substantially different than from any other time in history, because our curiosity led extraordinary examples of our species to find new explanations that have led to new weapons, new power sources, new scientific possibilities to further food production, new methods of communication. Brave New World, you’re in it.

And I cannot piece these fascinating facets of the world I live in with the everyday experience of the world I live in. My world is aeons away from theirs, I am still thinking what to have for tea and how much the car service is going to be on Thursday, remembering the documentary I watched last night where 17 year olds were living alone on less than £10 a day, and having babies. I felt guilty about that too, and happy that my sons lived a different life from theirs, although as a student, not by much. (joke – he is aware of his privilege in having a home to come back to.)

And because I cannot reconcile these two truths, these variants on what life is through the singularity of my own existence, I once again return to the poets, the philosophers. They bring me some sort of solace, that through their wrestling with these weighty questions, I can return to the wisdom of Heraclitus, and to the beauty of art as meaning. Thus I can bring to the table this thought, science and art do go together, one and the other, deciphering meaning in dissimilar ways, but learning about the same craziness of life.

Bryan Appleyard commented on AI here,

‘In the second machine age, the challenge to the human world is mental rather than physical. As the gadgets become more intimate and the scanners more powerful, it is our inner worlds that are being transformed. Perhaps they are even being destroyed. The perpetual connection and distraction of our lives now are the opposite of Stevens’ solitary thinking time or Dickinson’s isolation in her room. Connectivity is replacing creativity on Facebook and Twitter.’

Henry Miller had this to say and although he was writing much before the advent of our latest technogical wizardry, he had the sense of it,

“The cultural era of Europe, and that includes America, is finished. The next era belongs to the technician; the day of the mind machine is dawning. God pity us!”

“Art is as deep and high and wide as the universe. There is nothing but art, if you look at it properly. It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis……..

………As for that constantly vanishing point called the present, that fulcrum which melts simultaneously into past and future, only those who deal with the eternal know and live in it, acknowledging it to be all.”

( from The Henry Miller Reader)

Henry Miller recalls Heraclitus when he points us to the idea of constant flux, and this is a recurrent preoccupation of poets and artists. It may be a primal response to flux that is engaged when we look at the stars, or feel the pull of the sea, the shifting of the sand. Who can know what is inexplicable? But we don’t stop looking for explanation, demonstration, and now we don’t stop at attempts at creation. Here is one of those poets expressing the constant drive for incessant thought.

The Place of the Solitaires by Wallace Stevens

Let the place of the solitaires

Be a place of perpetual undulation.

Whether it be in mid-sea

On the dark, green water-wheel,

Or on the beaches,

There must be no cessation

Of motion, or of the noise of motion,

The renewal of noise

And manifold continuation

And, most, of the motion of thought

And its restless iteration,

In the place of the solitaires,

Which is to be a place of perpetual undulation.

Flux Anne   Corr

Joining the dots, astrophysics meets metaphysics.

illustration, Life, Science, Thoughts





Lawrence knew this without knowing the how, because when he lived we didn’t have the knowledge of the universe we have now.  These are some of the words from one of the best astrophysicists from today, Neil deGrasse Tyson;

“there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand in all the world,

more stars in the universe than all the sounds and all the words ever uttered by all the humans that have ever lived………..
it would be inexcusably egocentric to suggest we are alone in the cosmos, the chemistry is too rich, the universe too vast ….

……….life may be an ineveitable consequence of complex chemistry.

What Neil deGrasse Tyson does is more than educate, he enthuses and excites and instead of him feeling small and inconsequential in an expanding universe , he feels connected to that universe. By using his extraordinary intellect he participates in the same stream of life that we are all swimming in. He’s a deep sea diver in that river, me, I’m waving, trying not to drown.

Here are two videos of him talking masterfully .



I have to remember this, on days like these.

Life, Science, Thoughts

I have to remember this, on days like these.

Thank you to for entertaining and educating .  Wonderful site.

How how we come so far, and yet stand still amongst the chaos and debris we make.?

First coffee, then evolution and abiogenesis.

Art, Life, Science, Thoughts

You probably didn’t wake up this morning and consider the beginning of the universe, am I right?  The first thoughts generally include coffee and some type of sustenance.  Nevertheless, once you’ve fulfilled the obligations to the stomach, this does matter.  It really does.  Because the questions of why and how we are here inform what we do while we are sharing this beautiful, ravaged planet.  I am no campaigner, too lazy, but that doesn’t preclude me from wanting to spread the word when I come across a vehicle of reason.  For me, in my middle life, the world has turned and turned again.  Truths I held from a child have been disproved, and realities have morphed into a different experience of the world.  A lot has been driven by the introduction of super technology of course, but the matter of interest to me is how it impacts on our inner compasses of directing our personal lives.  I can no longer believe in a divine purpose, or a natural justice; the personal and the political perspectives I take have to be chosen by me, and me alone.  Therefore I feel the necessity to inform the arguments by listening and reading and watching all manner of clever bods, and then taking my own decisions about how I live my own choices.  I won’t take my instruction from a book written generations ago for a different culture. That doesn’t make sense to me, even when some of the lessons are valuable. Humans do need guides along the way, but we have to decide which guides, and even redraw the map.  This century has changed everything that went before, revealing revelations and producing revolutions. If you are eighty today, the landscape of human existence has altered more than in any lifetime in all of human history. We thought the universe was made up of one galaxy, but it isn’t. Our knowledge today reveals big numbers – more than 100 billion galaxies that can be observed.  Further to that, combining understanding of different disciplines, we now understand how it is possible that life came from nothing, This affects our understanding of all endeavours that went before. There is an explanation for life without the intervention of a Creator. Big, big news. You may think that’s not so new to you, but vast swathes of the human population live their lives within an understanding that a God created them, plans for them, gives them meaning.

Facing a different reality, one where the curiosity of the child has more weight than the dogma of religion feels unstable, uncomfortable for many. But just because the fact is remarkable, doesn’t make it meaningless . It makes it different. Less coded, imagine you’re in that restaurant at the end of the universe- now you can forget the menu.  You must order what you think it is reasonable the kitchen can offer, you may have to find out what’s in the larder, and which chef is working. More onus on you, but the meal will involve consideration on your part, and ultimately that’s going to satisfy way more than number seven from a worn out menu on a jaded palate.

The biologist E.O Wilson is now in his eighties, and he’s still asking himself and others to explain the great questions “Where from?,” “What?” and “Where to?” by saying we came out of biology, we are the greatest of all animals and because of our heightened social skills—our special human eusociality—we are being driven to greater cooperation and together will conquer the ills of the world. He still is prepared to court controversy amongst his scientific peers questioning previous theories on kin selection including his own, and present new, challenging models. That’s what I love about scientists when they work well – they are never afraid to refute old models when newer explanations are improvements on previously held ideas.  Our knowledge evolves. That is hope. I can have faith, but faith in humanity, and in the power of reason.. If you want to understand about how life can have sprung from nothing, or if you want a great explanation of a different idea-evolution, I recommend these links. If you want to educate yourself, your children or your grandchildren, take the time. Open your mind to the vast wonder of who we are, and how we got here; it may just change the way you look on the world.

Hubble bauble, angels in space.

Life, photogaphy, poetry

Anthropomorphic astronomy, what could be more prescient for a Christmas Eve.  Except for the fact that I don’t have any personal attachment to the Christmas Story of stars , stables, and the son of God.  This does nevertheless, make me go WoW!   And although I have fallen out with the  doctrines of man made religion, I still do wonder at a spirit that is embodied in all living creatures,  I still marvel at the amazingness of earth , and space, and all we know nothing about.  I still believe, but what it is I believe in, I cannot tell you.  A spirit of creativity,  of transformation, a spirit of the magic that is life.  How we are all greater than the sum of our parts. True of humans, true of nations, true of stars.  A spirit that embodies generosity, and collaboration and surprise.

Sylvia Plath represents here a little of my own wary spirit.  She wants to be open to transcendence, but is fearful, even cynical at times. And yet recognises its potency, in unexpected, unfamiliar settings. Just excellent.  Completely set apart from the over sentimental expression of angels we see everywhere.


Black Rook in Rainy Weather
On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain-
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Lean incandescent

Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical
Yet politic, ignorant

Of whatever angel any choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur.
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance
Miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,

For that rare, random descent.

— Sylvia Plath

Like a snowflake falling on water

photogaphy, poetry

Here’s a poet unafraid of the ordinary, a man fixed on living his life in a straight forward manner, doing the things that were meaningful to him.  Better known in America, than here, he is acclaimed as Poet Laureate 2004 – 2006, and worked a day job in insurance for 35 years.  Familiar, and with a poetic sensibility he chooses to share, he is sometimes accused of sentimentalism, but is unafraid of that.

“If you pay attention to the ordinary world, there are all sorts of wonderful things in it,” he says. “But most of us go through the day without noticing.”

Now ain’t that the truth?


Life, Thoughts

Scale of the universe

Hope you’re feeling humble, because there’s no way you’re going to enjoy this video, unless you have come to terms somewhat with idea of how inconsequential we all are on this little planet, gorgeous as it is.   I love the paradox that this life offers up, how immediately vital our lives are, how individual each member of the human race is, has been , will be, and yet simultaneously,what specks we all are.  It’s liberating and reassuring in some sense, at least to me.  And mind-blowing,  the ability to watch a video like this seems magical to me. The scope of human ingenuity and imagination that has got us to this place, the invention of language, the discoveries of science and the unending curiosity . It’s not so long ago in our human history that we thought we knew the cosmos looked a bit like this.

A Heliocentric Cosmos


This volume is the first edition of the work that set forth evidence that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun. Written by Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), and published just before his death, the work was met by tremendous opposition because it contradicted religious beliefs of the time. The Copernican views provided the basis for the later work of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo (1564-1642), and Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

Now we think there may be particles moving faster than light. Maybe.  An interesting dilemma for all physicists if the tests are proved correct, but the beauty of science is that is how it works. We believe in the model last proved by scientific endeavour.  So it may be we need to discover a new model for how we perceive existence.  That’s what I’m saying, there aren’t ‘arf some clever bastards. ( in the words of Ian Dury).

Scale of the Universe video from Primax Studios.


Putting a perspective on time/

Art, history, Life

Researched, calculated, designed, and built by Jamie Brightmore ©2011

I cannot applaud Jamie Brigthmore enough for creating this amazingly informative and fun presentation of the mind boggling nature of geological time.  If you want to be blown away , then spend some of yours just hovering over the interactive infographic.  The technology he has used so beautifully and creatively could not have had a more suitable , fascinating subject to encompass. I am sending Jamie one humungous air kiss over the ether in deep gratitude.  Now this is what I call awesome.   After perusing it for a wee while, you might want to consider taking the time for a refreshing cuppa.

Time for tea created by column five media published by