Saturday Surfing: Protest, Physics and Aesthetics, Oh My!

My gods, where did September go?! Oh that’s right, I got married. Woot! Then we had a fantastic honeymoon. Double woot! (More pictures soon to come of both.)

And now we’re home again, our days laced with the scent of falling leaves and lengthening autumn nights. It’s good to be home.

As promised, I’m starting a new feature on the blog where I recap some of the most interesting links and articles I’ve come across during the course of the week, for your perusing pleasure. I’m going to call this “Saturday Surfing” because I am, as you know, a huge fan of alliteration. So check these out:

“Lost My Job, Found an Occupation”

We came home from honeymoon to discover that while we were out galavanting around in the desert, folks back home in the east were speaking truth to power. Earlier this week, Yes! magazine published a “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” released by protesters and demonstrators involved in the #OccupyWallSt movement.

Meanwhile Richard Wolff, a writer for the UK’s The Guardian, encourages #OccupyWallSt protesters not to be distracted or deterred by accusations of disorganization.

Let me urge the occupiers to ignore the usual carping that besets powerful social movements in their earliest phases. Yes, you could be better organised, your demands more focused, your priorities clearer. All true, but in this moment, mostly irrelevant. Here is the key: if we want a mass and deep-rooted social movement of the left to re-emerge and transform the United States, we must welcome the many different streams, needs, desires, goals, energies and enthusiasms that inspire and sustain social movements. Now is the time to invite, welcome and gather them, in all their profusion and confusion.

As the t-shirts say, if you want to know what’s going on, turn off your television and tune in to the movement.

Spooky Science and Dark Matter

Over on the Nature Conservancy blog, they’re getting in on the Samhain action this October with an article that asks readers, “Do You Believe in Ghosts?” But don’t be fooled! What writer Mark Spalding actually wants to talk about is climate change, and whether science can give us absolute proof of its dangers, or if the conservation and ecological initiatives require a leap of faith.

Also, physicist Lisa Randall talks with Wired about her new book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World. Following up on her best-selling book Warped Passages, she explores a broad range of topics including everything from dark matter to modern art and projective opera, from parallel universes and the search for the Higgs boson to economic risk analysis.

Beauty and the Beast Philosopher

Thanks to the wonders of the almost endless ethereal mind of the internet, sometimes I stumble upon an article from a few years back, like Jim Everett’s “Spiritual Images of Nature,” posted back in July 2007 on his photography blog, I Took That!. It looks like he doesn’t post much these days, but I’m having fun poking through his archives and gleaning insights into how a professional photographer approaches his art. In this article, he looks at how we enjoy beauty as a spiritual experience in the natural world, and what challenges we face when we try to translate that experience into a work of art that can capture that beauty for others.

For the more philosophically minded, there’s a rich (but dense!) post about aesthetics, poetry, politics, ontology and death written by Adrian J. Ivakhiv, a professor of environmental studies, in response to a recent article by Tim Morton. Aesthetics and the philosophical question of beauty remains a fascinating subject to me, though it’s been years now since I was one of those unkempt students pouring over dusty tomes in the basement of a university library. Ivakhiv caught my eye in this piece when he challenges the usual duality we tend to draw between essence and appearance:

If the essence of a philosopher’s argument — the distilled, pure logic of his or her propositions — can be separated from the images, metaphors, and other guises in which those arguments come clothed, then we have already accepted part of that logic itself. The separation is a proposition, and it’s one whose acceptance carries costs.

For instance, if beauty is separable from form, if it is a matter of appearance-to-another-entity that is only contingently related to the properties of the object in question — if beauty is, in other words, on the side of appearance and not of essence — then it seems to me that beauty would not be able to truly take hold of an object. Its action would only be superficial. But is this how we respond to beauty?

The whole post is worth a careful reading, as is Morton’s original article. But be warned — I do not use the word “dense” lightly!

For more articles and links of interest during the week, hop on over to Links & Resources.


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Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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