Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love in a cold climate

Going through this dismal rainy fall morning was rewarded by an image of Turing entering mathematics in the 1930's Cambridge ("second only to Göttingen" in those times, according to Hodges' classic scientific biography, a classic biography - it hardly gets much better than that). That pure world independent of twisted human constructions, certainly fitting to Turing always so destined to be at the receiving end of that twistedness.

Not that I would really know whether that assesment of mathematics is totally true: that door has always been closed to me (maybe I have gotten occasional glimpses of glimpses of it), our human world, as twisted as it mostly is is, has been the centre of my interest, along with the process of experiencing it. But, I do suppose, suspect that it really is wholly independent, good that something is.

Art cannot do that, isn't that, but art does something similar, only in a radically different way. Extremes meet. I suppose I remain where I once began this blog (in the midst of a positively biblical decade of challenges): not far away from G.E. Moore and Principia Ethica - love, friendship, art, science, these are the long views, the constants.

Friday, September 23, 2011

θάλαττα! θάλαττα!

I still vividly remember reading in my early teens in the 80's John Fowles' magical description of the Greek landscape in "The Magus". Far in dismal north, in dismal circumstances such strange places were imagined. The merciless light, the stillness of Greek air, the awful, amoral brightness of the decidedly non-Nordic azure sea, the sense of the beauty of it all - the amazing power of literature (no film can ever be made, no place visited that would make justice to human imagination).

Such contrasts in that burning, painful life, such places visited ("only" in imagination, it is incomprehensibly said). But not only a half-forgotten private memory: ever since there has been an interest for antiquity, not Roman or Hellenistic, but for the brief, wild explosion of classical Greece. It is a central place, a central era for us, even now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The strange inheritance

There is really much in us that has come via Jerusalem - our vague, christian-agnostic humanism is basically just the New Testament translated into secular society. (In my personal case the connection is of course much stronger coming directly from a background of living, if very liberal, Christianity.) Liberalism, in the end is not a very Greek value. (And we don't hold it in the Greek way, but tepidly, half-heartedly.)

But the basic modern situation: freedom, passion, emptiness, is quite pure Athens. Not that many really would confront it. Some problems do arise in connecting liberal humanistic values with this Nietzschean condition of being in the world, but to my mind there is nothing inherently impossible in achieving a rational balance.

Art also is very a Greek thing - especially in the form where esthetics are seen as fusing with ethics (a view very close to my heart). Art is the central thing, next to it love and justice. Perhaps that is the fusion, our common inheritance - increasingly wasted inheritance, I suppose.

These recollections, echoes are indeed quickly fading. And not only of Athens but of Jerusalem as well, and there is a certain Roman luxury and opulence in our lifestyle, a certain decadence. One does wonder what is to follow all this, what rough beast.