JIM STOCKTON: Never mind why it’s there!


By Jim Stockton • Last Updated 12:57 pm on Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jim Stockton

The snow fell silently and softly over two nights, most spectacularly in the game reserve immediately north of Belding. It clung to the shrubbery and trees, an exquisite latticework of branches coaxing the eye into a world of reverie. A study in black and white, it framed a canopy of enchantment, evoking memories of an old fashion magazine that featured elongated, impressionistic drawings of women, as tall as trees and as slender as serpents. Rightly or wrongly I remember it as the old “Madamasoille,” but the current “New Yorker” sports similarly drawn cartoons linked to humor beyond my ken.

Nature worked hard to present that scene, applying layer after layer of sparkling snowflakes with the patience of a body man spray painting an automobile. It was a calming ambiance bringing to mind the line “Far from the madding crowd,” from an old English poem. Thomas Hardy wrote a novel by that title inspired by the same poem. Indeed I was far from the madding crowd, untroubled by the news of the day, loosed from the overbearing commentators of Facebook and their pugnacious political ramblings, the anger merchants and their conspiracy theories. Equally welcome, I was free from babbling mystics immersed in Gnosticism. They flood my page with gobbledygook.

For the first time in four years I had returned to this former walking ground, this time on an unseasonably warm Monday. I watched Doggie Redbone galumphing through the tall grass with only his bounding head and floppy ears showing above it. Today it was hushed with snow bearing the imprints of the same happy dog. My camera clicked 12 times for posterity.

In days of yore this was known as the Gore Farm. Long returned to nature, it became prominent for a short time about 1950. According to the Belding Banner-News, the ghost of Art Gore had interrupted some young couples during their “private negotiations.” The article even shared a “picture” of old Art, a black square outlining a blank space. Just between you and me, I think the “ghost” was simply the manifestation of conscience peculiar to the moral strictures of that day. He won’t come around in our day!

What a great experience it is to admire grandeur just because it is there, just because you are seeing it first hand. Never mind why it is there! Walt Whitman, the Romantic poet, wrote a poem in such frame of mind. Titled, “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer,” it tells of how quickly he tired of the charts, columns, and figures as the speaker droned on. “Till rising and gliding out,” he says, “I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.” I’m built that way too, content to hear the songbirds and the ringing in my ears.

On coming home I tapped into PBS and the dialogue of two theoretical physicists about the nature of reality and other stuff I don’t understand. My eyes rolled like pinwheels as they pondered “What happened before the ‘beginning?’” Duhhh!! The “beginning,” I am given to understand, may not have been the beginning! The one, director of something or other at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) told of his meeting with two other prominent theoretical physicists. They agreed that “reality” has three components, mathematics, matter and mind. Once established they “round robin” from one to the other interminably, an eternal triangle, perpetually in motion I gather. Alas, in disagreement as to which came first, they progressed from discourse to debate to heated discord. You would think men of such caliber would remain objective, but they didn’t.

One asserted that matter comes from mathematics and that mind comes from matter. Another said that there must first be a mind to comprehend the laws of mathematics. Then again, why are there laws, anyway? Why is there something instead of nothing? In contemplation, I think I detect insistence on a reason for reality which requires a reality beyond the reality beyond the reality ad infinitum. It’s like viewing infinity by placing two mirrors face to face. The progression never ends, and the answer izzzzz … Poink!!! My circuit breaker just popped.

The snow fell silently and softly over two nights, most spectacularly in the game reserve north of Belding. Oh my gracious, it’s catching!!

Jim Stockton is a retired bookkeeper who lives in Belding. His email address is biffles@charter.net.

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