A Letter to Mr. Palomar
January 30, 2012
Dear Mr. Mountain Telescope,
I write you today to thank you for your sincere efforts. Those to “bear all the aspects in mind at once…” thereby “extending this knowledge to the entire universe.“ I write not only to thank you, but to attempt to allay your bitterness. I can only assume this quiet bite is brought on by the lack of understanding expressed by those who, oddly enough, observe you without attempting a kind understanding. In the assumption of your moniker I find an implied separation that is, in the end, a tragedy.
Oh Telescope, great catalog of stars and planets. You hold me apart on one side of your looking glass from that which is beautiful and infinite. An arm’s length from eternity, no matter the size of the arm used to describe the body of the telescope. It is still a distance necessitated by the act of observation. Even where your body expanded as a great Panopticon, the all seeing all cataloging pinnacle of science, art and life, there would still be an uncrossable distance. The observer cannot act, cannot prepare to act. The spectator is separated from action by the apparatus of observation. Seeking to hold on to every facet of the world around him, the attendant of such a device becomes its sole prisoner, all the while seeking to hold the universe itself still. If the key to deeper knowledge is the complete observation of the entire surface, what does one do if, in fact ,“the surface is inexhaustible?”
Perhaps at times this may read as something of a love letter, and I am quite comfortable with that– since, in some ways, that is what this is. You certainly hold me rapt with what you present. The loveliness of the universe, from small to large is without equal. Perchance this is an odd thing to say, given that I am unable– even with your assistance– to observe something else to draw a lesser example from. Possibly my own imagination is the counterpoint to the reality revealed by your apparatus, both literary and scientific. Yes, I believe that is it. My own imagination is not up to the task of creating a universe approaching the one I already inhabit, the one you so diligently describe. I must draw upon what you so generously give me, and for that I can only express love as the result.
By the time the light from your vast holding hits my eye, many a creature has risen, peaked, and fallen into dust. Dust blown away by the eventual scattering of a universe churned by violent radiating emotion. Light streams in a distant constant flow, pushing every drop of matter in every direction possible. At this very moment, I am pierced by those hurled particles, those beamed lights sent out millions upon millions of eons ago. Could I have imagined this? Doubtful. Is it possible that I might approach an understanding of it through observation? Where I attempt to enumerate and observe only the myriad pressures exerted upon this form, my body, I would stand behind a lens of one sort or another for eternity. Unfortunately, I am not an eternal entity, this body is a finite form.
Herein lies the problem, Mr. Telescope. For all of your observation provided to me through your reduction, I cannot for the life of me observe through your aperture an apprehension, an understanding. For the natural predilection of science is to divide the everyday of observation into smaller and smaller parts in order to define them. It is the hope, in the materialist world, that by division, one might finally grasp the particulate knowledge that encapsulates the whole. This is the goal of the great colliders; built underground hurling the infinitely small at infinitely great speeds towards each other in unnatural collision to create ever smaller divisions. There scientists seek the final particulate division to provide the ultimate explanation. This is the goal of contemporary artists: by applying the methods of science and material that one might hold the everyday still and apply that stillness to describe the infinite. The hope of course is that one day the indivisible will appear, and all of the secret qualities of this unity will join the catalog of qualities and be applicable to the greater whole.
Alas, as you find, Mr. Telescope, division has it so very wrong. To divide and catalog is to make finite the infinite. To divide infinitely is, as you must finally realize, to die. Perhaps that statement is incomplete. It is not the division itself that leads to death, but the observation of each infinite detail. It is in fact the gift of science, telescope, and all of their observation, that bears out this relationship. At the smallest division, all possibilities exist in equality. It is only by observing them that each observation fixes a quantity and quality to matter. That then, which is infinitely fixed, eternal, unchanging, is dead. The still life is not life at all.
I hope you do not find me chastising. I certainly do not have that feeling in my heart as I write this letter. As I said before, I write you as an act of adoration and appreciation for you and your gifts however awkward they may be. Pretend perhaps that mine is the voice of two lovely pounds of goose-fat sprung to life and strangely just as beautiful as you describe. As I said at the beginning, I write to ameliorate your bitterness. I know, that once observed by you from a distance, you have the power to make even me appear lovely in my finite and flawed existence should you so choose. As you wish now, I tell you that my voice is that of meat on a plate transformed by your observation into something lovely and because of that transformation I do prefer you to the others standing in the queue mutely concerned with themselves. Such is life, my dear Mountain Telescope. I can see quite clearly, as has been said by others that you love “the cornucopia of the world and [want] to possess it by naming it in numerous lists and catalogues. “
I am suspect of others’ claims of your delight, and that suspicion is buoyed by your myriad claims of irritation. I also realize that you are already passed into that stillness of a painted portrait, once and for all defined– dead. I reject that entirely though my own superstition. I believe, without observing it to be so, that this letter can and will reach you. In doing so, we will, unobserved, be able to live a moment. A moment long enough that we may be glimpsed, cataloged, defined and found inspiring enough to engender and champion life itself. If anything is missing from your descriptions and declarations it is life and the living of it. Through your observations I get a sense that, without an oscillation between description, application, and emotion there is no universe. So I choose you, that the universe might be saved.