Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On words

I mucked around my classroom long after my lambs had left. One tank needed cleaning, another could use a few beakers of water. A third I stared at for a bit just because, and found a few squiggly things that looked suspiciously like mosquito larvae. I think maybe the spontaneous generationalists had it right.

Civil twilight lasted until almost 5:30 tonight--the slate-blue evening wrapped itself around me as I slid home on wet ice, full moon rising.

Language cannot describe this light, at least not the language of the Europeans. Maybe no language.(I suspect that any culture that pays attention to light has a word for the mid-January evening light that cuddles the few folks who still walk around these parts.)

I could take a picture of it, but it would fail. Words fail, too, unless you're beside me, and if you were, a sigh would suffice.

We've only been writing a few thousand years, and even now, many of us do fine without it.

Words help define us, but written words impose a steep price--they separate us from the world.

Never forget that science is based on models, on words, on artificial constructs. Science works by reducing the world into manageable bits. Never forget that science can limit our focus even as it expands our knowledge.

And if a child rejects science, do not reject the child. Every child in public schools here in Jersey is required to take three (and pass) years of science to get a diploma, because those of us in power have decreed that that matters. Every child has something to teach us, often beyond words.

As I walked home tonight, wrapped in mid-winter's gloomy light, with Jupiter shining up in the southwest sky, the glistening, crunchy water at my feet, my knowledge extended past the walls of words and artifice.

You'll just have to take my word for it, if howling at the rising moon counts as words.

Photo by Leslie--sunset in January on the Delaware Bay.

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