Sunday, August 23, 2009


There are some moments in life that leave an indelible impression. The memories of which record themselves in our neural pathways forever for future appreciation. Human beings are gifted at recording all of the output of our senses in incredible fidelity within our heads. Today I returned from assisting a relative with a furniture move, I was hot, sweaty and generally pretty uncomfortable. Our home was quiet and the pool in the back yard beckoned. I slipped into the water reveled in the cool bliss of an empty and calm pool. There had been a soaking rain an hour earlier so the air was excessively humid, a condition which the pool provided much welcome relief. As I floated I gazed up towards the east. Against a backdrop of battleship gray cloud was the most complete and brilliant rainbow I had ever seen in my life. Every color perfectly rendered against the canvas of cloud. These are the images that inspire poets, artists, composers… I am not Robert Frost, Claude Monet or Mozart. I cannot convey the impression with anywhere near the artistic beauty of any of those just mentioned, though the image is rendered within my memory with no less majesty. I proceeded to think about what it is in the human mind that makes it possible for us the appreciate the sublime. There are animals that can no doubt perceive the colors the same as I can but the ability to make the image a part of a mental warehouse, that’s a hallmark of humanity. The ability to retain and appreciate experiences that touch us. For most of human history the there was absolutely no understanding of what a rainbow was or how it was painted across a humid sky. Many thoughtful and brilliant people proposed subtle and engaging explanations. John Keats wrote about science taking the wonder out of nature:

Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine –
Unweave a rainbow

Some say our ability to understand the origin of such natural majesty detracts from the experience. For my part I feel nothing could be further from the truth. This ability to understand the world is the greatest tool for our survival that we have. There is something elevating and almost spiritual that comes with understanding. Something that goes a long way to show how interconnected everything in the universe is. The human brain allows us to be liberated from the mundane; to become more than instinct and survival. We can remember, deconstruct, analyze, and then understand that which our senses reveal. Then we can use what we learn to make a fulfilling and meaningful life for ourselves and help those around us to do the same. Who among us can possibly have complete appreciation of what else might be possible...?