Lewis Lapham has shown up in our pages here exactly once in the past. Mainly because, in the six years we have been posting on this platform, his own publication was not as accessible as others we have been linking to. Surely there was a purpose to the walls constructed around it, but we are happy that, for whatever reason, they have come down. Just the illustration above and the quotations below should make you want to read more:
Evolution has arranged that we take pleasure in understanding—those who understand are more likely to survive.
I’m sorry I know so little; I’m sorry we all know so little. But that’s kind of the fun, isn’t it?
We sample the opening two paragraphs after the jump below, and recommend savoring his writing, but we also have been on the podcast bandwagon since we started on this platform. If you have already been enjoying Lewis Lapham’s publication, and wishing it were available in an audible format, today is your lucky day (click the soundcloud banner here to listen).
Discovering the infinite universe.
A probable contender for a Nobel Prize at the age of eighty-one, Vera Rubin had been asked if she was troubled by the near-infinite expanse of human ignorance. The question was not gratuitous. Rubin’s eminence as an astronomer rested on her finding in the universe five, maybe ten times the mass of energy dreamed of in the cosmologies of Albert Einstein and Max Planck. Not only was the universe more infinite than previously imagined, but the newly discovered bulk of it was composed of dark matter destined to remain unknowable because not formed of the same atomic fairy dust as all things animal, mineral, and vegetable, celestial and terrestrial, to which mankind gives the names of nature ceaselessly creating itself.
To Rubin’s examiners, the discovery of a never-to-be-seen abyss was news unfit for man, machine, or beast. Was the dear lady not aghast? She was not. To the contrary. She stands in awe of her unknowing as if in Xanadu before the stately pleasure dome of Kubla Khan, where runs the sacred river Alph through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea. Isn’t that kind of the fun, the looking into the vast darkness ripe with wonders that will never cease? The limitless expanse of human ignorance Rubin sees as the fortunate provocation that rouses out the love of learning, kindles the signal fires of the imagination. We have no other light with which to see and maybe to recognize ourselves as human…
Read the whole article here.