The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.W.B.Yeats
We just came back from overseas in a matter of hours, hurtling in an aluminum cocoon. It is easy to wax philosophical when staring at the Earth several miles below.
If you do not know all that grows within a yard or two from where you are sitting, and none of us do, then contemplating "life" while staring out a window 6 miles over the Earth is a mere conceit. Ireland does not exist in the sky.
Leslie and I walked a couple dozen miles on Inis Mór, part of the Aran Islands in the Galway Bay off Ireland. Each step was different. Each of hers was different from each of mine.
Walking in the the late blue dusk not long before midnight, surrounded by stone walls built by men long dead, the air thick with a blend of sea mist and pollen, we watched a black slug generate from the shadows, its presence daring us to mention Darwin.
I am, mostly, rational, and being rational, will let go of it when it is no longer useful. I am not going to pretend I heard crows talk, but if I had, I would not have been surprised. (And if I had, I would not mention it here.)
I teach science. I love science. I do not, however, idolize science. A choice.
Walking through the west of Ireland through muddy fields holding the kin of animals we ate for breakfast, under barbed wire and over electrified fence, stepping over (and occasionally into) shite, edging along cliff edges, the crashing breakers below called me like Sirens. A choice.
Ireland is an old country. The mist rolled off the hills a thousand years ago, and will a thousand years from now. Someone else saw it then, someone else will see it later. The Irish and their land tell the story again and again, in many forms. We are mortal, we make choices. The Irish know what bad choices may bring.
Poets and painters, musicians and priests, story-tellers all, producing nothing more than the black slug emerging in the Irish summer night, when measured by the rational.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?Rationality is a tool, an effective but jealous one; we present it to our children as something sacred, and I suppose it is. That is not our mistake.
Our mistake is ignoring the other side--the lure of the cliffs, the stories of the dead, lives worth living that do not contribute to the gross domestic product.