(My sincere compliments to RT) Who among us doesn’t need some celestial perspective from time to time? It’s been cloudy and snowy here lately, so: no visible night sky, no Milky way for spiritual sustenance.
Above: “The European Space Agency has shared an incredible image from deep inside the Milky Way’s abundance of clouds, showing the fascinating formation of new stars.”
Think of our galaxy as a thick disc with spinning arms. The visible part of of what we see as ‘milk’ is comprised of so many stars that we can’t see single ones with our naked eyes. What we do see overhead is by way of gazing at the edge of the galaxy; awesome, isn’t it?
The ESA’s Herschel space observatory – the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope – captured the image of what they called “the nursery of the next generation of stars.” The blue wave represents the coldest parts of the cloud at -259 degrees Celsius and contains 800 times as much mass as the sun. The warmer regions of the cloud are color-coded in red.
Herschel Image of the Day: Amazing Eagle! The famous Pillars of Creation look very different to Herschel’s infrared eye.
From Spaceinfo.com: Thousands of galaxies crowd into this Herschel image of the distant Universe. Each dot is an entire galaxy containing billions of stars. While estimates among different experts vary, an acceptable range is between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies, Mario Livio, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, told Space.com. Also mind blowing is that the colour tells you the distance of the galaxies: red is distant, blue is “nearby”.
From the Wiki: The Milky Way is estimated to contain 100–400 billion stars, although this number may be as high as one trillion. The center of the Galaxy lies in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius; it is here that the Milky Way is brightest. From Sagittarius, the hazy band of white light appears to pass around to the Galactic anticenter in Auriga. The band then continues the rest of the way around the sky, back to Sagittarius.
Via space.com: At the center of the galaxy is the galactic bulge. The heart of the Milky Way is crammed full of gas, dust, and stars. The bulge is the reason that you can only see a small percentage of the total stars in the galaxy. Dust and gas within it are so thick that you can’t even peer into the bulge of the Milky Way, much less see out the other side.
Tucked inside the very center of the galaxy is a monstrous black hole, billions of times as massive as the sun. This supermassive black hole may have started off smaller, but the ample supply of dust and gas allowed it to gorge itself and grow into a giant. The greedy glutton also consumes whatever stars it can get a grip on. Although black holes cannot be directly viewed, scientists can see their gravitational effects as they change and distort the paths of the material around it, or as they fire off jets. Most galaxies are thought to have a black hole in their heart.
Not only is the Milky Way spinning, it is also moving through the universe. Despite how empty space might appear in the movies, it is filled with dust and gas — and other galaxies. The massive collections of stars are constantly crashing into one another, and the Milky Way is not immune. In about four billion years, the Milky Way will collide with its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. The two are rushing towards each other at about 70 miles per second (112 km per second). When they collide, they will provide a fresh influx of material that will kick of star formation anew. The Andromeda Galaxy is obviously not the most careful of drivers. It shows signs of having already crashed into another galaxy in the past. Although it is the same age as the Milky Way, it hosts a large ring of dust in its center, and several older stars.
This is an artist’s rendering of the collision. My.stars. (so to speak)
Also from RT: ‘‘Pearl of the desert’: RT visits liberated ancient ruins of Palmyra (DRONE FOOTAGE)’ Now i haven’t watched the videos, but some of the stills in the links staggered me. no wonder it’s a world heritage site; i simply had no idea what it was. it’s tragic that the Empire and friends were so hell-bent on neo-con policy that they created ISIS or daesh or however it goes.
rebuild it? ooof.
Lovely and awe-inspiring, wendye! I don’t have anything to match this, thank you so much. There is just one passage from my favorite author that springs to mind. Here it is:
“…He did not stop on the porch, either, but went quickly down the steps. Filled with rapture, his soul yearned for freedom, space, vastness. Over him the heavenly dome, full of quiet, shining stars, hung boundlessly. From the zenith to the horizon the still-dim Milky Way stretched its double strand. Night, fresh and quiet, almost unstirring, enveloped the earth. The white towers and golden domes of the church gleamed in the sapphire sky. The luxuriant autumn flowers in the flowerbeds near the house had fallen asleep until morning. The silence of the earth seemed to merge with the silence of the heavens, the mystery of the earth touched the mystery of the stars. . . Alyosha stood gazing and suddenly, as if he had been cut down, threw himself to the earth.
“He did not know why he was embracing it, he did not try to understand why he longed so irresistably to kiss it, to kiss all of it, but he was kissing it, weeping, sobbing, and watering it with his tears, and he vowed ecstatically to love it, to love it unto ages of ages. . .” [F.Dostoievski ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ Pevear translation]
There’s more but I had to stop. At RT also is an op-ed about a Russian soldier, 23 or 27, I forget, who called an airstrike on his position as he was surrounded and did not want to be captured. Out among the stars. . .
if prose could match this, your dostovesky passage did indeed. thank you for it from the bottom of my heart. somehow this counterpoint hit my soul an extra measure: “The luxuriant autumn flowers in the flowerbeds near the house had fallen asleep until morning.”
and of course, we who garden know their silence, but recognize that in that silence…we may hear the chiming of the universe…inside our spirits or souls.
the passage also reminds me of the reeling dislocation i feel when we go out to see our part of the universe at times…. so untethered from earthly concerns and angst; a few minutes’ belief that not all planets in the universe are experiencing as much darkness as ours. heady beyond belief.
thank you, ww, srsly. i’ll read it again before i sleep and say my thank you (rather apatheistic) prayers tonight. ;-)
Apatheistic is welcome, wendye! I’ve been reading some of the early fathers of Christianity – St. Gregory the Theologian is one who basically tells his compadres [ ;) ] to stop quibbling about doctrine and take a look into the hearts of the people – back in the early days when everyone was fond of calling everyone else a heretic. And here’s a wee bit from the good Alexander Men:
“The Apostle Paul says that all creation groans and is in torment, awaiting the revealing of the sons of God. That’s us, you and I; we are the sons of God, or we should be. When man steps back from this calling, he becomes the oppressor of Nature, her corrupter, her destroyer. He turns his back on his own Creator; he destroys his own soul. Instead of harmony [Navajo religion] and fullness of the symphony of life, he creates a monstrous cacaphony of evil, disintegration and ruin. . .”
Even if you think, my goodness, that is putting man on some pedestal, you foolish person! – even if you think that, existentially speaking, what choice do we have but to set our goals as if that were the case? We are who we are, and we have these ideals, dimly perceived as we gaze upon the stars and feel the earth beneath our feet. It may be sheer poetry, but it is what we are made of, as the astronomical physicists tell us.
St. Gregory stressed the apophatic qualities of God, which are especially revealed in the Old Testament, where all descriptions, appearances, are fundamentally of a negative nature – God is in this or that, but he is not this or that. I think of the Universe that way – an incredibly vast and glorious Unknowable even as we seek to penetrate its beginnings.
Thanks again, wendye! Lovely presentation.
welcome, juliana; it was a treat putting it together. and thank you for your contributions.
funny thing that we earned from tony hillerman, yes?: hzzrho (or whichever way being in harmony is spelled), healing ceremonies aren’t necessarily to make a person well, but…to restore harmony to them. i like that a lot.
Goodnight Moon not-yet-risen. Goodnight (double star?) arcturus. Goodnight north star sailors of yore steered by. Goodnight via lactea. Goodnight Galileo Galilei. Goodnight Alyoshas everywhere.
Thank you, wendye, for bringing this to the Café. There is so much bad news in the world that it’s nice to.to have help keeping it in perspective
welcome, dancingrabbit; how nice it is to see you. this post was partially by way of allowing those who live with epic light pollution to revel in the glory, as well. yes, it’s almost akin to meditation in that it can allow us to shut off our internal ego dialogue for a time, and find some respite from the many darknesses afoot. at least in theory, aiding restoration and renewal…to keep on keeping on.
i kinda needed it myself before tackling a new post on school privatization, labor strikes w/ associated allies, labor beyond capitalism, and so on.
but please feel free to carry any diaries here over yonder to c99 (or anywhere else) at will. some folks may indeed enjoy this one. ;-) (just the RT link didn’t seem to be enough, so i went a-diggin’ for more.)
We keep $pending our treasure on trifles like #ExoMars, when the interest of the space program has already accrued : There is No WHERE Else to go; so we had Best make amends with GAIA (or as US sailors “pray”,
AND, There Are NO ‘lifeboats’.
i’m not sure i take your larger meaning, and it’s a good prayer, thank you. but i’d thought that ‘the lifeboats’ for the oligarchs and kleptocrats was imagined to be dubai. (mebbe with a geodesic dome of titanium plexiglass over it.) ;-)
andrei bolkonsky in war & peace, wounded at the battle of austerlitz;
quotes found here:
“He suddenly felt as though one of the soldiers near him had bludgeoned him on the head with all his might. The worst of it was not the pain, but that it distracted him, preventing him from seeing what he had been looking at.
“What is it? Am I falling? My legs are giving way,” he thought, and fell on his back.
He opened his eyes, hoping to see how the struggle between the gunner and the Frenchman ended; he wanted to know whether the red-haired artilleryman had been killed or not, and whether the cannons had been captured or saved. But he saw nothing. Above him there was nothing but the sky, the lofty heavens, not clear, yet immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds slowly drifting across them. “How quiet, solemn, and serene, not at all as it was when I was running,” thought Prince Andrei, “not like our running, shouting, fighting; not like the gunner and the Frenchman with their distraught, infuriated faces, struggling for the rod; how differently do those clouds float over the lofty, infinite heavens. How is it I did not see this sky before? How happy I am to have discovered it at last! Yes! All is vanity, all is delusion, except those infinite heavens. There is nothing but that. And even that does not exist; there is nothing but stillness, peace. Thank God …”
[He lies gravely wounded on the battlefield. He is still there when Napoleon himself, surveying the scene of his victory, comes upon his body and mistakenly assumes he is dead.]
“There is a fine death!” said Napoleon, gazing at Bolkonsky.
Prince Andrei realized that this was said of him, and that it was Napoleon who said it. He heard the speaker of these words addressed as sire. But he heard the words as he might have heard the buzzing of a fly. Not only did they not interest him, but he took no notice of them, instantly forgot them. His head was burning; he felt that he was losing blood, and saw above him the remote, lofty, eternal heavens. He knew that it was Napoleon — his hero — but at that moment Napoleon seemed to him such a small, insignificant creature compared with what was taking place between his soul and that lofty, infinite sky with the clouds sailing over it. At that moment it meant absolutely nothing to him who might be standing over him or what might be said of him; he was only glad there were people there, only wished they would help him and bring him back to life, which seemed to him so beautiful now that he understood it differently.
He was enjoying this happiness when suddenly there appeared that little Napoleon with his narrow, heartless look of happiness at the misery of others … and again the doubts and torments … and only the heavens promised peace.
not quite as lyrical as Dostoevsky, but the mockery of napoleon is a nice touch.
Wonderful piece, jason, and unforgettable in the pantheon of such experiences. The two Russian authors never met but had great respect for one another, and for Dostoievski the attitude towards Napoleon is fleshed out in “Crime and Punishment” – which interestingly to me was one of the books the Russians gave Snowden to read in the Moscow airport.
interesting. thank you.
not as lyrical, no, but still narrating quite an epiphany of perspective. now you’ve included the shocking wound that led to his noticing ‘the heavens’, but i can’t recall what had precipitated alyosha’s rapturous journey in seek of the stars and sky, and the vastness of space.
but tolstoy reiterates prince andrei’s revelation a bit later (thanks for the link):
“Looking into Napoleon’s eyes, Prince Andrei thought of the insignificance of greatness, the unimportance of life, which no one could understand, and of the still greater unimportance of death, the meaning of which no living person could understand and explain.”
whooosh. and yes, the jibes to napoleon were smile-worthy.
just a note: bolkonsky is not the hero of w&p. there’s something not quite right w/his “vision.”
About the only good use for the sunk costs in the dual-use aerospace technology from the Cold War is this sort of scientific research, whose main product is knowledge, puzzles, and wonder. We might as capture as much information as we can now. These sorts of expenditures are not likely to last much longer.
The reality that we inhabit is beyond language and artistic representation. We ever so often just stand jaw-dropped and boggled. The pictures have that effect and so do the explanations.
yes. so much science is now proven, including some of einstein’s theories. spinning thru the various sites as well as the several twit accounts was mind-boggling in its own right. graphic representations of bouncing radio waves into theoretical black holes; and ‘black holes colliding’, etc. my stars. one thing that mr. wd couldn’t get over was “…the hazy band of white light appears to pass around to the Galactic anticenter in Auriga. The band then continues the rest of the way around the sky, back to Sagittarius.” galactic anti-center? holy smoke, what a concept!
and that it’s all in constant motion, arms rotating…at thus and so a rate…i love it to bits. of course, what’s in the Super Universe i and how is it arranged are whole other questions (the urantia book). ;-)
You are looking at an electric universe.
The electrostatic force is 10^39 times more powerful than gravity – the bright band is where a specific glow discharge is occuring due to sufficient current density to ignite (perhaps, new) stars.
— 3K microwave background that implies the universal age after the Big Bang – that minimal noise comes from the action of making and breaking innumerable H–H bonds in our oceans – the 3K monopole has never been observed outside Earth orbit.
— The Sun (and ALL the stars) are gas balls.
The proof of stars==condensed matter is simple.
All stars have a continuous spectrum.
All solid/liquid state bodies have a continuous spectrum.
No gaseous collections have ever shown a continuous spectrum.
Ergo: Stars are condensed matter [solid-or-liquid] bodies.
The continuous glow spectrum of the Sun (and the other stars) is the primary proof, but one can explore Forty Lines Of evidence For A Liquid Sun [PDF].
fascinating, lemoyne; you got some major scientific game! (now, if i could just understand which silly theory you’ve busted…) ;-)
nice to see you. and happy april fool’s day.
from the wiki on music of the spheres/musica universalis:
In a theory known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum (orbital resonance) based on their orbital revolution, and that the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear. Subsequently, Plato described astronomy and music as “twinned” studies of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, music for the ears, and both requiring knowledge of numerical proportions.
of course the Bard is all over this stuff. From Merchant of Venice 5.1:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls…
what good additions, jason. what do you reckon pythagorus meant by ‘the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds? or is the word not as important as i’m hearing it? i will say that when i’ve dreamed of being aloft out in the cosmos, i hear sounds…almost like chimes. but i had to look up the bard’s use of ‘quiring’; it’s an arcahic form of ‘choiring’ (choral singing). how i love knowing that!
but isn’t that the thing? when we can still ourselves we can hear the music, maybe inside us, maybe not? didn’t some great sage say that’s what love is? or accessing our more perfect spirits or something?
i wanna go check a couple things, but you might love reading juliania’s series on ” an address given by tutor Michael Ossorgin to the graduating class of St. John’s College in Santa Fe in 1974.” it’s in three parts, this is PT I, but plato and pythagorus are ascendant. fine reading, if not more than that.for the other parts, click on her name on the authors list on the left.
I’m not sure i got all of the juliana (what’s a hypoteneuse?)
On entering we found Socrates just released from chains, and Xanthippe, whom you know, sitting by him, and holding his child in her arms. When she saw us she uttered a cry and said, as women will: “O Socrates, this is the last time that either you will converse with your friends, or they with you.” Socrates turned to Crito and said: “Crito, let someone take her home.” Some of Crito’s people accordingly led her away, crying out and beating herself.
I haven’t read Phaedo in a long time but i searched for the words woman/women, lady/ladies, female, etc., and that’s it. one instance. get that weepy chick outta my hi-falutin’ death scene! is Xanthippe, his wife, not Socrates’ friend?
to answer your question, or maybe misunderstand it, i think it means pythagoras was full of crap. maybe quality crap, but crap nonetheless. The harmony of the soul w/the cosmos is to be realized by the denial of the individual & particular. In MoV, Jessica is not impressed w/Lorenzo’s fancy book-larnin’, and Portia comes up & mocks it. The vision of a mystical oneness offered by such idealism, a la Plato, is questioned in each of these later authors by, inter alia, the persistent recurrence of the presence of women, a recurring problem for patriarchy. If Pythagoras is right, where does Socrates’ demand to banish the woman come from? and war & greed & poverty all the rest? Studying music & geometry is great, but people gotta eat too.
Highly recommend Melville’s diptych of short stories, The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids.
“At rows of blank-looking counters sat rows of blank-looking girls, with blank, white folders in their blank hands, all blankly folding blank paper.”
For all the emphasis on Vision, there’s so much the pythagoreans & platonists refuse to see.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began.
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.
the hypotenuse is the longest side of a right triangle, the ‘a squared + b squared = c squared, and that’s mirrored in tonal scales and intervals, i think. but juliania can correct me.
xanthippe seems to have been known as a bit of a shrew, and the wiki says that he chose his first wife for being rather…argumentative. one can easily imagine that as the assembled men were gathered to say goodbye,
and socrates was holding philosophical with them, he wouldn’t want no breast-beating woman mooking up the works. her wiki entry has some hilarious artwork representing that. fair? who knows?
but srsly, isn’t the over-riding theme of plato’s ‘symposium’ that the highest form of love is the pursuit of wisdom, even by way of the pursuit of beauty? and my sense was always that male-male love, not always platonic, was the highest form? i’d always thought him to be pretty sexist, even describing ‘the ideal state’. (lovers and beloveds should serve in the armies because: that’s how valor is attained’ or close; but of course it wasn’t always defined as male/female lovers.)
but plato did ‘inquire’ into the role (and character?) of women and challenge the status quo thinking, so…there is that. i had to look it up; i read it at arrggh…17.
“Thus Plato establishes his theory and description of an ideal State. It is not a democracy and it has a strict class system. The question soon arises in the discussion as to what the proper role of women in the society must be. This comes up because it seems obvious that men of all three classes must have wives. How could those women belong to any of the social classes stipulated unless they were endowed with the capabilities for the pursuits belonging to that class? In other words; how could a woman belong to the Auxiliary class unless she had sufficient courage and honor? How could a woman belong to the Guardian class unless she had knowledge and wisdom? Perhaps women make up a separate class or several separate classes.
Plato’s answer to this question must have been extremely shocking in his time. Indeed, up to the middle of the twentieth century, Plato’s views about woman can only be seen as radical. In ancient Athens, women were not considered citizens at all. Some women were mere property.”
shoot, jason, you’re doing some great digging. i need my toast, lol.
omg. i need to read & rethink both your comments & juliania’s posts. after i posted my comment, i tho’t: but did i respond to wendy’s question? or just blather on, if insightfully, about some lit texts (great though they are)? i was j/k w/the question about the hypoteneuse. juliania’s address that you posted was more complicated than i could engage with at that time.
i just bashed Visionary Experience! as an American, whose heights of sublimity often never transcend the orthodontia of smiling Joel Osteen.
i would rather smoke pot & chatter about The Symposium than engage in, say, the chicago action you posted about some days ago. Adios Xanthippe, hello Diotima.
ach, i knew you must be kidding about hpotenuseseses-i, and thought i’d be able to ping something clever as a tangent to all this…but it never came.
you and ww (juliania) are so much better versed in literary works and memory of them that i can’t play at your levels. so it goes, as a favorite author was wont to say.
here’s a pdf of ‘The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids’, in case anyone has the time and desire together. it’s fine about commenting on what you imbibe and are about; what was there to say about events in chi-town, really? i just like most every action and essay that proves how illegitimate governments and their security state lackeys are…it brings us one step close to non-violent revolution, especially when folks start recognizing that we, the rabble, all share a common plight and can ya know: arise like lions from our slumber’, and all that jazz.
i confess, i still ain’t really feelin’ the dryden poetry handel used, and as to all hu-mons being able to be inspired by music of whatever kind: i wish it were true. but then, which nazi in which death camp just loved his classical music (bach?) that brought him to tears?
“all the world’s a stage”- a bit of self-inflation on the part of these artists for their craft? “music shall untune the sky”? uh, maybe.
sadly, carl orff, richard strauss, and others collaborated. whatever their artistic merits, their “genius” did not prevent them from participating. scientists, writers, doctors, etc., did as well, as we all know. somebody said something like, “if literature changed anything, war would have stopped w/the Iliad.” aesthetic or scientific appreciation and/or creativity does not guarantee political acumen. or courage.
“the heavens shall roll up like a scroll,” quoth the bibel somewhere. a person’s relation to the “heavenly realms” (whatever and all that that means, sky, space, spiritual planes) is like a person reading a book. one day, the book is put down, and a person experiences “the thing itself,” instead of just reading about it.
another world is opened but the medium by which that other world is viewed, music, poetry, etc., is not that world, is not that “thing itself.” one need not look at this in exclusively “religious” terms. I think it’s Marxist critic (or pseudo-marxist, whatever, not debating that) Frederic Jameson who talks about art & “utopian fantasy.”
dunno nothin’ about Jameson, and ahhh to your paraphrasing that if literature changed anything, war would have ended w/ the iliad. but as to sorta internalizing/becoming ‘the thing itself, you caused me to strain to remember plato’s ‘thought forms’, and how they might fit in. i looked it up, and it seems not really.
yet the best art often does allow us to see the world or anything it from a different angle. or with added punch, including war, capitalism (picasso, goya, rivera), depressions…even light, really. and sky.
but i was musing about plato’s early contentions about the ideal state, and maybe later feeling backed into a bit of a corner in needing to consider women as almost-citizens cuz these dudes needed wives.
“The well-ordered State, reasons Plato, is a larger instance of the model provided by the soul. The most excellent or ideas state is one in which the basic parts are in proper balance with one another. In Plato’s model, there are three main classes in the ideal State (note how they correspond to the parts of the individual soul):
1. The Guardians, who love knowledge and truth above all. They rule the State. (his philosopher kings, i gather)
2. The Auxiliaries, who love courage, honor, and their homeland above all. They defend the State.
3. The Producers, who love fruits of their labors, security, comfort, and material well-being above all. They provide the material and functional needs of the State.”
and again, pardon my ignorance, but i needed to ffind out when it was that the seeds of athenian democracy were planted: almost 8 centuries after plato, socrates, and aristotle were dead. but only dudes could serve in the assemblies, lol.
still, art has changed the world in some measure, i’m sure. even though some of the best european art was sponsored by some pretty odious royal families. ;-)
what would life be w/o music? non-architecture already exists in things like the office cubicle and the, uh, pentagon….might not be so easy to say positively what they bring, the arts, beyond pleasure, insight, etc. easier to imagine the dull round w/o them.
stargazing has a long, long history in the evolution of human consciousness. among many other examples, the long ages of pastoralism, sitting out under the stars, in a world that always endured a scarcity of light during the night.
btw, Plato’s Republic is obviously influenced by Spartan culture. One of the unusual features of the rather unusual Spartan militarism was the relative freedom women in Spartan society enjoyed (citizens, that is,) relative to the other Greek states that is, where the culture might remind us of the Taliban or other awfulness.
at least for me, and i’d guess mr. wd as well…life without music is much like i imagine pre-death. we went through a long dark night of the soul because: one of our chirren long ago. i stopped performing, couldn’t even pick up a guitar and sing, nor could we even allow ourselves the pleasure of music, which had always been…what got us through the night.
architecture: oh, my, i read a fictional account long ago of stone masons working on a cathedral that took generations to complete. it not only gave me an appreciation for ‘the masons’ as a secret society, but also what i missed in my humanities ‘architecture’ sections in college. it’s not dry as they teach it, but full of blood, failed attempts, arches and arcs, and ‘who holds the keys to religious thrones. when i saw the photos of palmyra last week, i wanted to genuflect as well, in the same way i felt for the archeo-astronomers who built chaco canyon.
where comes the knowledge? just by observation over the decades, centuries? or maybe more like genetic memory, or whale song traveling…across the ocean like hundredth monkey theory? shared epiphany, i guess i’d call it.
thanks for the sparta’s military as more egalitarian; dinnae know that. sleep well.
Oh! the metempsychosis! Oh! Pythagoras, that in bright Greece, two thousand years ago, did die, so good, so wise, so mild; I sailed with thee along the Peruvian coast last voyage—and, foolish as I am, taught thee, a green simple boy, how to splice a rope!
from moby d, ending of ch 98
You have answered pretty completely, wendye – I don’t think I have a lot to add. Thanks for mentioning my three-parter – the address I posted is long and long ago given, but does talk about incommensurability, which was a sticking point for the Greeks both musically and in geometry. One can perhaps see that in the demonstration Socrates gives with the slave boy, in the Meno. The slave boy has a ready first answer that seems reasonable but is wrong, with respect to the doubling of the area of a square. That would relate, I think, to Jason’s comment on pythagorean linkage of music and astronomy, (and to hypotenuses) so I can see where ‘the music of the spheres’ fits in. The Greeks worked with what they had, and it was quite a lot – can you imagine how beautiful the skies looked then?
I love that the slaveboy does reach the correct conclusion after he’s led both to discover his error and to the visual proof of said conclusion. But I always thought, too, that even the Pythagoreans had the same philosophy as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in that ‘there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of. . .’ Incommensurability is one of the mysteries of the universe; it isn’t all cut and dried.
It’s a pity to miss the beauty of Platonic philosophy from that early early time. One site I go to is
Bernard Suzanne’s explorations. He has an overview of Plato’s works that is simply spectacular, a bit like seeing that space ribbon, I think.