Must we always talk for victory, and never once for truth, for comfort and joy?
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Happy and Healthy New Year to you all! May this be a year filled with Curiosity, Creativity and Constructive Conversation.
The words of Samuel Johnson, an English poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer and lexicographer, are particularly relevant today just as they were when he wrote them well over two hundred years ago: “That is the happiest conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but a quiet interchange of sentiments.” I would also like to add that the most courageous of conversations are those in which we are willing to suspend judgment, listen to the ideas and questions of others without simply having a desire to score points.
Conversations are about listening, learning, helping and building. They derive from a wonderful potential part of humankind – the ability to perceive the similarities, commonalities and differences between the way people think, and also by being sensitive to the nuances of the communications in progress, the words said and what was unsaid.
2020 has arrived for me together with my latest book, A Fantasist & A Scientist In Conversation. Over the past year, I have collaborated on this work with co-author, palaeobotanist, Professor John M. Anderson. Together we have enjoyed transcending the perceived boundaries between the Arts and the Sciences and have celebrated the commonalities and differences we discovered in our ideas and our disciplines.
John’s work is centered around the destructive effects of human activity on our planet and I continue to explore the subject of independent and creative thinking through my writing of books, fiction, poetry and non-fiction as well as my blogs. Creativity versus destructivity is an underlying theme in my fantasy book, THE WORLD OF GLIMPSE, and in most of my writing. Both my and John’s different pursuits are the subjects within our joint book: A FANTASIST & A SCIENTIST IN CONVERSATION. There are idiosyncrasies and confluences in our way of thinking that I find fascinating. And I find John fascinating, too. He is an individual with a remarkable, ongoing commitment to preserving the precious and glorious biodiversity of our planet for our children – and for all the species and ecosystems with whom we coexist.
How wonderful it is that because of technology, John and I have had an ongoing communication across hemispheres (North and South). Today, so many of us are fortunate enough to have an ability to communicate with each other, even over vast distances and in so many different forms! John and my collaboration has been largely centered around preserving the natural habitat of our precious Earth, the kind of local and global conversations which are occurring in many different forms. Listening to each other and seeking commonalities are essential elements for creating world peace and for preserving the biodiversity of our glorious planet: OUR EARTH: OUR CHOICE
Congratulations to you and John on this book. I am looking forward to reading it.
Congratulations! The book sounds most interesting.
Thank you, Lisa and Gwen!
Good old Samuel Johnson, author of the first great ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ (1755). And what a great thing is language–unique to our species–full of words, brimful of nuance, subtlety, variation, depth, feeling, enabling us to hold our conversations. Conversations on anything and everything under the sun, and well beyond the sun to the furthest reaches of the universe.
Numerous thanks to you Ellen, I’ve so enjoyed our ‘Conversations’ across the hemispheres, of both our Earthly home and our minds! ‘A Fantasist and A Scientist In Conversation’ really did allow us to venture free, co-venture free! No borders: 2020 vision in its broadest metaphorical sense! Beyond today’s possible!
Which got us, among’st a great diversity of things, places and times, to Earth Day, 22 April 2020! The 50th anniversary of Earth Day! Which got us to offering a challenge, an impossible challenge! Our Earthly Atmosphere, Biosphere, Hydrosphere and Lithosphere are in dire trouble thanks to our Homo sapient selves. In the Earth-sciences fraternity we call it the Sixth Extinction! The Fifth Extinction occurred 66 million years ago leading to the demise of the dinosaurs and so much else. It’s as dire as that! And its in our hands. The impossible challenge: to totally, holistically, change the way we run affairs globally; and to have the soundest possible plan in place by 22 April 2020! No boundaries! 2020 vision!
Thanks, Ellen, for our boundary-less ‘Conversation’!
And numerous thanks to you, too, John for “our boundary-less ‘Conversation’!” which I so enjoyed. Indeed, “listening to each other and seeking commonalities are essential elements for creating world peace and for preserving the biodiversity of our glorious planet”.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the interaction between Ellen and John. I go to concerts frequently and the writing reminded me of two instruments playing beautifully back and forth.
Thank you, Sam. I love your analogy of John’s and my conversation: “two instruments playing beautifully back and forth”!
Congratulations on the publication of your special book, relating to both Creativity and Science.
I note a quotation from Samuel Johnson (who once mentioned the importance of Curiosity, which is fundamental to both Creativity and Science).
Sam Johnson is buried in Westminster Abbey beneath the Grand Statue of William Shakespeare who is holding a scroll
with words from wise Prospero (The Tempest).
If we follow the logic of Prospero,
those who inherit this Great Globe
(and who continue “Business as Usual”)
won’t (eventually) leave even a wreck of our precious world behind,
because even the wreck of the wreck would be destroyed
(unless something is done urgently about the ecological crisis).
All who Inherit the Great Globe itself
And leave not (even) a wreck behind.
Instead, I would like to say:
All who Inherit the Great Globe
Shall Prosper and Protect
our world, for our Children’s Children
Thank you for your comments, Francis. How interesting that Samuel Johnson mentioned the importance of curiosity. For me, three very important ‘Cs’ are: Curiosity, Connectivity and Creativity – and of course many more could be added to this list.
Thank you for sharing the wise words of Shakespeare’s Prospero which are so pertinent today and ditto on what you say:
“All who Inherit the Great Globe
Shall Prosper and Protect
our world, for our Children’s Children.”
Here is one of Samuel Johnson’s creative references to well-connected Curiosity:
“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.”
(March 12, 1751)
Samuel Johnson was spot-on almost 250 years ago! Thanks for sharing the quote. Also, as you say, he was referring to WELL-connected Curiosity. Stephen Jay Gould once spoke about that in an interview: “I can sit down on just about any subject and think about twenty things that relate to it and they’re not hokey connections.”
Hello Francis T and Ellen P–and so the Conversation around Fantasy and Science effervescently Continues! And likewise the Conversation around the multiplicity of Cs–Curiosity, Connectivity, Creativity, Celebration, Commonalities, Challenges, Concerts and, of course, our Children’s Children!
Topmost thanks Francis T–who clambers upon the very same family tree as the Bard himself–for your poetically challenging Comments. Though Westminster Abbey–where so many of the most creative of British scientists and writers lie buried–has for a good many decades been my favourite place on Earth, I was quite unaware of those wise words of Prospero in the scroll held in Shakespeare’s hands. Those prophetic words poring from the pen of our Elizabethan Bard!
Let Prospero’s wisdom prevail, for our Children’s Children, and for the great diversity of other life that shares our most beautiful and fragile Blue-Green Earth!
Dearest John, unforgettable friend and colleague.
One day Walt Whitman said about his book:
“Don´t close your doors, proud libraries,
because just what was missing
on their crowded shelves
is what I come to bring”
and I feel the same about your and Ellen book.
It is lusciousness!
Thank for sending me the announcements and I will have it with me all the time taking advantage of the ease that new technologies bring to us
And the very warmest thanks to you dear Tania–most special colleague and friend from forested Brazil–for your charming response to Ellen and my ‘Conversation’. What a spreading smile your Walt Whitman quote about keeping open the proud library doors conjures up in me!
Your boundless enthusiasm is fondly cherished!
What an interesting dialogue to have !
I strongly believe that these new approaches you mention above are just at the beginning phases. The full potential of these is still yet to be discovered. There is no doubt that they will shape new boundaries, realities and possibilities for researchers and academics to share their work and start new partnerships. It seems to me that the artists are one step forward in that exploration . It’s time to catch up and explore the full potential of such collaborations. As Frantz Fanon stated – “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” For us South Africans I strongly believe that it will be to explore the possibilities that are offered and new collaborations to enrich and enlarge Ubuntu Philosophy for the country.
A good many thanks for your challenging thoughts, Goitse! Yes, let’s indeed go global with the Ubuntu Philosophy. Creative Collaboration! Synnovation (synergy/innovation)! Synchrodestiny! 2020 vision! Towards Earth Day 2020 (22 April), it’s 50th anniversary!
Goitse and John – I echo your thoughts re the oneness and the interconnectivity of all life on Earth. The Ubuntu African philosophy is a way forward for more interaction, conversation and collaboration across perceived boundaries. Let us continue to reinforce our capacity to interact with others with real caring and also, in the same way, with nature – with all the species on our planet as we proceed towards the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and towards many more Earth Days to come.
Thank you for your conversation, John and Ellen. Picking up on the notion of fantasy & science, the four
“–spheres” of the planet and Earth Day in April prompts me to start by referring back to March last year when the launch and safe arrival of the Dragon capsule at the International Space Station was acclaimed worldwide. Space! Man beyond the limits of planet Earth! And the pictures make it look very high up, there outside the atmosphere.
But stop! – And DO check my figures . . . If somebody went – let’s say even walked – from Birmingham, England to Edinburgh, Scotland, how much news coverage would they get? Not much.
Because when you look at the distance from Brum to Edinburgh on a globe, it is totally insignificant – 245 miles.
What is that to do with the Space Station?
Simply that 245 miles is almost exactly the height above Earth that this ‘acme’ of rocket science is orbiting the world.
Now look at the globe again and point with a pencil at where Edinburgh would be if you tipped it up so it was ABOVE Birmingham UK.
Does that really count as being “in Space”? But it is above the gases of the Earth’s atmosphere.
So how much atmosphere does it look as if we’ve got? Not a lot. We can’t risk fouling it up.
“We’re going to others worlds and “terra-form” them!” Oh yes? That’s fantasy. If we can’t even maintain the world we evolved to live on, forget it!
Wonderful imagery, thanks Colin, tipping a line joining Edinburgh and Birmingham on end and finding it about exactly the height of the International Space Station above Earth–245 miles. On a globe, point a pencil at Edinburgh hovering there above ‘Brum’. Negligible distance! Our atmosphere, so thin, so vital to life, so very fragile!
Fascinating! I think this kind of dialogue is needed, now more than ever, and is all too often overlooked. We need people from all different backgrounds areas to be able to communicate and create a conversation such as this, where we can all chime in and listen to one another. I really look forward to reading it, thanks to both of you!
Welcome aboard, Emma, especially glad you’ve joined the Conversation. You’re so right: with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (22 April 2020), just out there, its ‘now more than ever’ time for wide-open Communication globally–towards something new!
Thank you Emma, thank you Colin and thank you Tania from, as John says, “forested Brazil.” I very much appreciate this global response to John’s and my book and the shared awareness of the interconnectivity of all life on Earth. I also thank you all for your thoughtful and moving comments.