Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Astronomer and Poet Rebecca Elson’s Stunning Cosmic Salve for Our Creaturely Tremblings of Heart – Brain Pickings – The Super Cheap

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Antidotes to Fear of Death: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Astronomer and Poet Rebecca Elson’s Stunning Cosmic Salve for Our Creaturely Tremblings of Heart

It’s our organic wiring to exist — after which not; it’s our psychological wiring to spend our lives working from this elemental reality on the hamster wheel of busyness and the hedonic treadmill of feat, working from the disquieting data that the atoms huddling for a cosmic blink across the shadow of a self will sooner or later disband and return to the “aloof stars” that made them. If we nonetheless ourselves for a second, or are bestilled by circumstance, we glimpse that reality, then hasten to avert our gaze. We go on holding it as an abstraction, an unproven theorem; go on casting spells in opposition to the proof in stone and wooden and guarantees; go on constructing homes and egos, signing thirty-year mortgages, buying and selling the cast mint of endlessly as contractual foreign money in marital vows. After which sooner or later, some certitude fissures — within the damaged floor of a cut up lip, a cut up love, a cut up in Earth’s quaked crust; within the slow-burning wildfire of a pandemic, smoking its means throughout the globe till it blazes right into a shared inferno; within the chilly blade of a terminal analysis, sudden and near the bone. We get up to unalloyed actuality with a scream, a silence, a hole hallelujah.

The astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson (January 2, 1960–Might 19, 1999) was twenty-nine when she was recognized with non-Hodgkins lymphoma — a blood most cancers that sometimes invades individuals of their sixties and seventies. All through the bodily brutality of the therapy, all through the haunting uncertainty of life in remission, she met actuality by itself phrases — actuality creaturely and cosmic, phrases chance-dealt by neutral legal guidelines — and fabricated from that terrifying assembly one thing uncommonly stunning.

Rebecca Elson, 1987

When she returned her atoms to the universe, not but forty, Elson bequeathed to this world 56 scientific papers and a slender, gorgeous ebook of poetry titled A Duty to Awe (public library) — verses spare and stylish, drawn from a consciousness pulling the balloon string of the infinite by way of the loop of its personal finitude, life-affirming the way in which solely essentially the most intimate contact with dying — which implies with nature — could be.

Elson’s crowning achievement in verse is the poem “Antidotes to Concern of Loss of life,” superbly delivered to life right here as a trailer of kinds for the 2020 Universe in Verse — our annual charitable celebration of the science and splendor of nature by way of poetry — by astrophysicist, novelist, Pioneer Works Director of Sciences, and devoted enchantress of poetry Janna Levin, with music by cellist, composer, and music revolutionary Zoë Keating from her unique soundtrack for The Fringe of All We Know — the forthcoming documentary concerning the Occasion Horizon Telescope, which in 2019 captured humanity’s historic first glimpse of a black gap. (Janna works on black holes; Elson was among the many choose scientists tasked with finding out the primary pictures returned by the Hubble House Telescope, that pioneering emblem of our most bold tool-making and our eager for intimate contact with the character of actuality.)

Janna prefaces her studying with a Bohrsian reflection on the connection between science and poetry, between the target and the subjective, concluding with an exquisitely insightful and exquisitely phrased remark of how the strain between these seeming dipoles can dissolve upon nearer inspection:

We’re all navigating an exterior world — however solely by way of the prism of our personal minds, our personal subjective expertise… The majesty of the universe is simply ever conjured up within the thoughts.

Please get pleasure from:

by Rebecca Elson

Generally as an antidote
To concern of dying,
I eat the celebs.

These nights, mendacity on my again,
I suck them from the quenching darkish
Til they’re all, all inside me,
Pepper sizzling and sharp.

Generally, as a substitute, I stir myself
Right into a universe nonetheless younger,
Nonetheless heat as blood:

No outer house, simply house,
The sunshine of all of the not but stars
Drifting like a brilliant mist,
And all of us, and all the things
Already there
However unconstrained by type.

And someday it’s sufficient
To lie down right here on earth
Beside our lengthy ancestral bones:

To stroll throughout the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Every like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Considering: no matter left these husks
Flew off on brilliant wings.

Couple with Regina Spektor studying Elson’s “Theories of Every part” on the 2019 Universe in Verse and Janna studying Maya Angelou’s cosmic clarion name to humanity on the 2018 Universe in Verse, then be part of us for the livestream of the 2020 present for extra magnificence and comfort by calibration of perspective, that includes Neil Gaiman premiering one other unique poem, Patti Smith bringing Emily Dickinson to life, astronaut Leland Melvin studying Neruda’s love letter to Earth’s forests, and thirty different magnificent constellations of atoms celebrating the majesty of the universe and the irreplicable splendor of our Pale Blue Dot.

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