October 30, 2012

Marvel and misspell


During the hurricane (not so bad in Philly) I posted some NASA photos of past storms on But Does it Float. (Unusually topical for me, I know.) I used a Goethe quote found in Auden's A Certain World: A Commonplace Book. Here's the full quote:

Many years ago, as now, my mind strove with eager delight to study and discover the creative life of Nature. It is eternal unity in manifold manifestation; the great is little, the little is great, and everything after its kind; ever changing and yet preserving itself, near and far, and far and near, and so shaping and re-shaping itself—to marvel at it is what I am here for.

The reason why I prefer the society of nature to any other is that nature is always right and the error, if any, can only be on my side. But if I hold converse with men, they will err, then I will, and so on forever, and we never get to see matters clearly.
Everything factual is, in a sense, theory. The blue of the sky exhibits the basic laws of chromatics. There is no sense in looking for something behind phenomena: they are theory.

On the next page Auden gives a fun Lichtenberg aphorism:
If nature be regarded as the teacher and we poor human beings as her pupils, the human race presents a very curious picture. We all sit together at a lecture and possess the necessary principles for understanding it, yet we always pay more attention to the chatter of our fellow students than to the lecturer's discourse. Or, if our neighbor copies something down, we sneak it from him, stealing what he himself may have heard imperfectly, and add to it our own errors of spelling and opinion.
Image: Hurricane Dean, 2007, NASA

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