Category Archives: Quotes

In the Realm of Wonder

Mythology, art or science, all dwell in the realm of wonder…

The Birth of the Milky Way, by Peter Paul Rubens

The Birth of the Milky Way, by Peter Paul Rubens

The term Galaxy is an ancient Greek one.  It comes from the word milk, since the cluster of celestial material is such that colours the night sky with a white stripe, like a milk splash. What a beautiful image that is…. This image inspired so many more images, wordy, musical or visual, ever since…. This is what I love about wonder and curiosity! It gets imagination going to explore both the magic and the reality out there. It helps our growth with the nutritious elements of knowledge and beauty…

Similar to a previous post , where I was talking about the inspirational drive that mythology has put into the arts, here is another great  sample of human creativity par excellence, namely ‘The Birth of the Milky Way“, (ca. 1637), by Peter Paul Rubens. This work of art now belongs to and can be seen at the Prado Museum, Madrid.

But even the etymology of the terms ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Milky Way’ are poetic. Here is what Wikipedia says on the terms’ provenance:

The word galaxy derives from the Greek term for our own galaxy, galaxias (γαλαξίας, “milky one”), or kyklos (“circle”) galaktikos (“milky”)for its appearance as a lighter colored band in the sky. In Greek mythology, Zeus places his son born by a mortal woman, the infant Heracles, on Hera’s breast while she is asleep so that the baby will drink her divine milk and will thus become immortal. Hera wakes up while breastfeeding and then realizes she is nursing an unknown baby: she pushes the baby away and a jet of her milk sprays the night sky, producing the faint band of light known as the Milky Way.

In the astronomical literature, the capitalized word ‘Galaxy’ is used to refer to our galaxy, the Milky Way, to distinguish it from the billions of other galaxies. The English term Milky Way can be traced back to a story by Chaucer:

“See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë
Which men clepeth the Milky Wey,
For hit is whyt.”
—Geoffrey Chaucer. The House of Fame, c. 1380.

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Vonnegut’s 8 points on how to Write a Story

Point 7:

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

Kurt Vonnegut

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“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.”

 

verses from the poem “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” by William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams Poem

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To play safe, I prefer to accept only one type of power: the power of art over trash, the triumph of magic over the brute.

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov Quote

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Francis Bacon: The Optimist

“Great art is always a way of concentrating, reinventing what is called fact, what we know of our existence – a reconcentration… tearing away the veils that fact acquires through time.”

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was born like today, 28th October, in 1909 and died in 1992. He is probably the only ‘shock’ artist I like. Here is a link to an 1985 documentary about him, his work and his views. I think in this just short of an hour film you can see the man, who claims to be “an optimist for nothing” and to have no thoughts on the meaning of his individual works.

http://www.ubu.com/film/bacon.html

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Octavio Paz Quote

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“Beyond happiness or unhappiness, though it is both things, love is intensity; it does not give us eternity but life, that second in which the doors of time and space open just a crack: here is there and now is always.”

Octavio Paz

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Thinking of beauty, thinking of Florentine Art

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    Lorenzo Ghilberti, Creation of Adam and Eve, ca. 1435, panel part of the ‘Gates of Paradise’, East Doors, Baptistery of San Giovanni, Florence

“The great Florentine art, from Giotto through the quattrocento, has the faculty of amazing with its unexpected and absolute truthfulness. This faculty was once called beauty.”

Mary McCarthy, the Stones of Florence

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Leda and the Swan

The story of ‘Leda and the Swan’ is a Greek myth which is told in many variations.

According to one of them, Leda – a mortal queen, wife of the king of Sparta Tyndareus – was in the forest when Zeus spotted her and wanted to make love to her (or rape her). He transformed himself into a swan and landed next to her. They started playing and he seduced her. On the same night she also lay with her husband.

As a result, Leda ‘hatched’ two eggs, from one egg she bore the twins Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces), the fomer being the son of Tyndareus and mortal, and the other being the son of Zeus and therefore immortal. They are known as the Gemini (‘Twins’), the famous constellation, star sign. Through their love for each other, they both eventually became the immortal-mortals.
From the other egg she bore Clytemnestra, famous for becoming the wife of king Agamemnon, and Helen of Troy. No more is needed to say about the importance of these two women in the narrative of the dawn of the western civilization.

All these mythological- archetypical figures and life circumstances have fuelled the human imagination in the millenia and given such great material for the arts…. Here, I think, are two beautiful examples of this:


‘Leda with the Swan’ by Bartolomeo Ammaneti
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

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Leda and the Swan
by William Butler Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

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“The poet’s mind toils between substance and the void.
Every detail in high and low relief he seeks to perfect, so
that the form, although it may transcend the dictates of
compasses and ruler, shall be the paragon of resemblance to all
shapes and features imitated.”

Lu Chi’s Wen Fu
The Art of Writing

Quote from The Art of Writing

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Natural Selection Theory in a nutshell

Darwin’s Natural Selection Theory changed the way we see life and the world for ever and so many discussions and books have been written about it since … Darwin wrote a book explaining it but needed just one paragraph to describe it. Here is Darwin himself describing Natural Selection in 1859 in a few words:

“If, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite variety in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection.”

Darwin, Charles (1859)On the Origin of Species in From So Simple a Beginning: The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin. Edited, with introductions, by Edward O. Wilson. W. W. Norton & Company. New York, 2006.

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