Unreal Nature

April 17, 2015

The Dissolving Power

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:29 am

… They had been defined before their existence, named and given shape in the puff of air that we call a word.

This is from the title essay in The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eiseley (1994, 1964):

… Archaeology is the science of man’s evening, not of his midday triumphs. I have spoken of my visit to a flame-wreathed marsh [city dump] at nightfall. All in it had been substance, matter, trailing wires and old sandwich wrappings, broken toys and iron bedsteads. Yet there was nothing present that science could not reduce into its elements, nothing that was not the product of the urban world whose far-off towers had risen gleaming in the dusk beyond the marsh. There on the city dump had lain the shabby debris of life: the waxen fragment of an old record that had stolen a human heart, wilted flowers among smashed beer cans, the castaway knife of a murderer, along with a broken tablespoon. It was all a maze of invisible, floating connections, and would be until the last man perished.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] These forlorn materials had all been subjected to the dissolving power of the human mind. They had been wrenched from deep veins of rock, boiled in great crucibles, and carried miles from their origins. They had assumed shapes that, though material enough, had existed first as blueprints in the profound darkness of a living brain. They had been defined before their existence, named and given shape in the puff of air that we call a word. That word had been evoked in a skull box which, with all its contained powers and lurking paradoxes, has arisen in ways we an only dimly retrace.

[ … ]

… We are more dangerous than we seem and more potent in our ability to materialize the unexpected that is drawn from our own minds. “Force maketh Nature more violent in the Returne,” Francis Bacon had once written. In the end, this is her primary quality. Her creature man partakes of that essence, and it is well that he consider it in contemplation and not always in action. To the unexpected nature of the universe man owes his being.




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