Saturday, July 16, 2011

On a glass of wine and ecology

I have been thinking about ecology as a metaphor for second language studies for some time now but I feel like the thought of it is more elegant than my words can ever be. The idea itself is beautiful but words betray me (and no Platonic philosophizing is intended here). I simply cannot flesh out my ideas. Perhaps I need to approach it from a different angle. Perhaps I just have to call its name and let it come to me instead of attaching it head on. It is so frustrating at times that I simply want to kill the idea so that I can think of other things and feel free again. To use a metaphor, it rather feels like trying to catch fish by bare hands. If you do not know how to do it, which I don't, at some point you feel like throwing dynamite in the water ^_^ Okay okay no worries, I am not going to kill anything, probably not anything other than my gray cells). And I know that in many other fields the ecology metaphor has been used and I keep reading about it but as much as those words inspire me, they lack something I want. I do not know what to call it exactly, spirit, spark, or some kind of aesthetic quality. Perhaps you have to be a writer to do justice to an idea an image or a feeling in words, or so I thought. But surprisingly the words came to me from a physicist, Richard Phillips Feyman, while I was stumbling. On second thought I do not think it is surprising at all. Science deals with beauty as much as any other human endeavor. But anyway, all this rumble is to share with you a quote I like.

"A poet once said 'The whole universe is in a glass of wine.' We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imaginations adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the Earth's rocks, and in its composition we see the secret of the universe's age, and the evolution of the stars. What strange array of chemicals are there in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalizations: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Louis Pasteur, the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts—physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on—remember that Nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!" —Quoted in The New Quantum Universe (by Tony Hey and Patrick Walters), 2003

Darn, where is my glass of wine when I need it the most ^_^



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