Monday, 13 November 2017

Two Shades of Hope

Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.    
Arthur C. Clarke 
(science fiction writer, inventor)

As kids growing up in the 60’s, we were led to believe that in the future as adults we would be taking our kids to the moon on holiday. Science was all the rage and much of what was still science fiction back then is now commonplace in our 21st century civilisation. Although many predictions have come to pass (not the moon one though) some that failed to materialise now seem totally mad and way off the mark. 

Arthur C. Clarke for example, can be seen on TV predicting that in the future we will be able to communicate (conduct our business is what I think he said) instantly with anyone anywhere in the world without even knowing where that person is. Dead on, and that was before global TV transmission, in the days of electric telephones connected by wires and when PC’s and even video had yet to be invented. He also predicted in the next sentence that our future labour problems would be alleviated by using genetically modified chimps as servants! It just shows that predicting the future, or prophesying as some would say, is a precarious business.

In our contemporary world we are still fairly addicted to science and like to quote “the science bit” to prove our point. We employ the science bit to back up so many arguments and have even used it to prove the non-existence of God. However, when the science bit uncovers or proposes something we don’t like, it’s so typically human to quietly ignore it hoping it’ll just shut up after a while. 

Take the whole “is there life out there” debate as an example. Is there life out there among the billions of stars with their many billions of habitable planets? Of course there is. Logic and sheer probability says there must be. BUT, the science bit has also said that it may only be simple single celled life forms. Why? Well, the “ fateful encounter hypothesis” states that mathematically, complex life, never mind intelligent life is likely to be much rarer than we have previously assumed. Because of the evolutionary bottleneck inherent in the development beyond simple life forms (it's all down to the very lucky formation of eukaryotic cells with mitochondria) complex life forms, therefore intelligent life could actually be considered a galactic or universal rarity. In fact it's considered so unlikely it may only have happened the once.

So what’s my point here (I don’t mean the point of my existence here in this studio typing my blog post)? Well, as a lover of all things scientific I totally relate to something that Professor Brian Cox said in a BBC TV program here in the UK on this topic a few years back. He said that in fact we may be alone in the universe after all. More important though was his response to this statement. In that case, he said, that makes us very precious indeed. And if we are unique, surely we have an extra responsibility to look after ourselves, our planet and all life on it.

A bit about the new work

Regular readers of this blog may by now realise that what I write here isn’t “about” the new work but is something that relates to it. The new mezzotint “as fools rush in” is based on the quote “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” by Alexander Pope in his 1711 poem An Essay on Criticism. The phrase alludes to inexperienced or rash people attempting things that more experienced people avoid. This mezzotint also suggests that there are consequences of rash decisions by our less mature political leaders. Interestingly and quite coincidentally, the angel looks like she is leaning forward and about to snuff out the burning fuse on the bomb, like someone has to take control and sort out the mess!

A compliment to this work might be the etching “two shades of hope” (many thanks again as always Foy). I said shades, not sides...well, Foy said it first but hope is so multifaceted in my experience. The lower text states that the abolition of order leads to the escalation of chaos. In this etching there is a dove on an olive branch facing another dove on the end of a gun barrel. Perhaps I was thinking about the idea of guilty silence in witnessing persecution/racism (the sleeping dove on the end of the gun?) and of speaking out for those who seem to have little or no voice of their own. As I've said before, freedom of speech is not absolute and comes with responsibilities (the theme in the two small mezzotints also launched here).

The collage JerusalemDove speaks for its self.