Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Considering the universe in which we have our being

The photograph below shows my small collection of cacti. They have now emerged from their over-wintering place and are enjoying the sunshine. They will flower grandly during one night, and then only 2 or 3 times in the year. They will quickly go to sleep again. With their simultaneous night-time burst of heavily scented perfume they will attempt to attract a rare moth from thousands of miles away in the desert. It is unlikely that the creature will arrive. But this doesn't stop the cacti from trying.

That the universe is a big place may appear to be stating the obvious. But, beware, for in the universe the obvious is not always what it appears to be. What we see in the physical realm is merely a manifestation of something whose qualities are unknown to us. Many sages, poets and holy men have spent their lives delving into the matter and have often come away at the end as confused as they were when they started. One has only to look at the high suicide and mental illness rates to get some idea of the difficulties encountered in going down a path that leads into a labyrinth through which it is impossible to navigate one's way to the tower in the centre. The poet and holy man R S Thomas, summed up an important aspect of life in the labyrinth when he said: God waves the white flag of surrender and at the same time retreats from you at the speed of light.

The images featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day give us ample food for thought. They serve to nourish our curiosity and our ambition. The images are often composite images made with x-rays and radio-waves and other 'tricks of the trade' to give us the wonderful images that a God would see if his huge magnifying 'eyes' could visit many different frequencies and wavelengths at the same time. On the other hand, closer to home, we can imagine the colours of the flowers as seen by insects, small white and yellow daisies may appear as a large yellow and red flowers to passing insects.

We say flowers are beautiful, and so they are, but when we look at them we are not seeing the real flower. The real flower is what the bee sees. To feed the bee and by this means to multiply is the flower's raison d'etre. The fact that flowers carrying out their vital and important tasks, appear as beautiful creations in our eyes is one of the miracles of creation.


The Weaver of Grass said...

I was once quite interested in astronomy but I gave it up because I found the ponderables so immense that they became troubling to me.
RS Thomas seems to have sorted all that out in his mind as he returns again and again to the "big issues" (although I think his private life was quite troubled).
Those white flowers on your cacti are exquisite - I suspect to the bee she (was going to put he and then remembered drones!)sees only the part she needs and ignores the rest.
I read yesterday that the Arctic tern lives half the year in the Arctic and half in the Antarctic and flies between the two - in one he rests and in the other he breeds. Such immensities are quite beyond my thinking.

PS Could you please pop over and give me your opinion on my blog today - when is a poem not a poem - as I thinking your work is the best I read in blogland, I would appreciate your comment. Regards.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sorry - mean "think" not "thinking" - my grammar is not that bad!

Poet in Residence said...

And let's not forget the puffins of Skomer Island (Wales). They spend half the year in and out of their burrows like rabbits and then the winter sitting on the waves in the storms in the Bay of Biscay.
I'll pop over!

Dominic Rivron said...

What you say about being able (or not) to "see" different frequencies is very interesting. It's one of the things I love about shortwave radio. To bring different parts of the spectrum to life in sound is like watching the sky in the evening, for example. I'm often reminded when listening to the sound of "invisible" natural phenomena on the radio of the experience of a blind person maight have having a sunset described to them. Have you ever heard the strange natural sounds you can hear on VLF radio? NASA have one online.

Poet in Residence said...

Thanks. I'll have a listen to your NASA sound link! It must be 10 years since I was at Jodrell Bank.
That reminds me, they picked me as the volunteer to stick my hand in the liquid nitrogen coolant container, after demonstrating a cooled tennis ball shattering like a piece of china when bounced. Fortunately my hand survived the ordeal!