–by Paul Fleischman (Nov 08, 2013)
Each icicle follows the laws of physics by which, at temperatures below 32°F, water molecules abandon their aqueous phase-state and flip into a new self-organizing pattern. The icicles also follow the law of gravity, which draws the alternately freezing and sun-thawed drops down towards the center of the earth, so that a curtain of sparkling stilettos festoons my windows. These icicles are basking in glorious electromagnetic radiation sent by the sun from more than ninety million miles away. As the photons collide with ice, diamonds of light are refracted in rouge color across the curtain of cutlasses. Although this blazing gallery is a product of scientific law, the codes are lax. Each icicle is weird, jagged, unique. Each weapon is being remodeled in front of my eyes as the cold air and the photonic electromagnetism spar by freezing and thawing, while gravity like an umpire draws drops down. Subtleties of location and angle proliferate variation in this cosmic cutlery of beauty and light. How can the impersonal universe create such radiant beauty?
When I look away from the icicles from time to time, I notice two red-tailed hawks perched on the upper limb of a Lombardy poplar on my neighbor’s property. The hawks sit like married statues on the battered, high limbs, where they are probably warming themselves in the photonic waves that turn to heat upon collision with the bird’s white abdominal feathers.
Everything in this tableau of stillness is actually in motion. The icicles morph as I watch them, occasionally plummeting down into the snow. The big birds are not still but poised, and they are set to lift off in pursuit of their caloric necessity. My mind too is rippling in white wonder. Man, bird, and ice all contain in their water, hydrogen atoms from the dawn of time. The red-tails carry within them similar information in the same genetic code as the voles they eat, a code assembled three to four billion years ago and first consciously reflected in the human mind a mere fifty years or so ago yesterday. It was not until the 1960’s that teams of bioscientists, including Francis Crick, Marshall Nirenberg and many others, first mirrored in their consciousness the informatic sequences that form DNA “codons,” so that life at last became aware of itself as sequential information.
Man, bird and ice are cosmic conglomerates, temporary residents, artworks in the same installation. In this small crucible of space, in this coincidental birthday party of making and melting, a universal artist plays…
My speculation halt as the hawks fly off, the orchestration shifts, my own great ship of Earth sails on through elastic-black space-time, changing its angle to the sun. The icicles suddenly look dull gray.
Inside the polymath potential of the universe are the capacities for men, birds and ice. The creation never stops nor is still. Flows form and un-form. Law and history guide them. There are so many things that have been created and in one golden moment I was struck by the wonder of it.
In order for this moment of wonder to have occurred, here I sit in my office, as my planet rushes through space at about five hundred thousand miles per hour (there are many motions in this approximation: the Earth revolving around the Sun, the Sun moving in the Milky Way Galaxy, the galaxy sweeping forward with expanding space), through the caverns that are (at least) fourteen billion times six trillion light years wide, my planet having given birth to life some three to four thousand million (billion) years ago, and having created in that long interval about fifty billion species, and having covered itself with oxygenated plant-breath, and having ushered in oxygen breathers, and having elaborated in the play of life over the most recent hundreds of millions of years complicated mammals, who have increasingly complex minds, all of this swirling aloft in my one hundred trillion cells, one hundred trillion informatic DNA threads, septillions of ATP’s and thousands of other smart molecules, containing octillions of atoms whirring with coordination and precision and whizzing accurately among themselves across uncountable nano-gaps, while creation and destruction bring life and death to me with their roughhouse game.
One moment of icicles and birds pours out of the cosmic fountain. One moment of awareness of icicles and birds is more, and different, than everything. But there is no resting place and the scene moves on.
–Paul Fleischman in Wonder: When and Why the World Appears Radiant. [Creative comic above by Dharma Comics ;-)]