Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Weight of the Wor(l)d

While this post may be read partially in continuity with the preceding, it is specifically a supplement to Blade's recent post.
From Annie Dillard's Living by Fiction,

The most extreme, cheerful, and fantastic view of art to which I ever subscribe is one in which the art object requires no viewer or listener - no audience whatever - in order to do what it does, which is nothing less than to hold up the universe.
This is a fundamentally insane notion, which developed in my own mind from an idea of Buckminster Fuller's. Every so often I try to encourage other writers by telling them this cheerful set of thoughts; always they gaze at me absolutely appalled. Fuller's assertion was roughly to this affect: the purpose of people on earth is to counteract the tide of entropy described in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Physical things are falling apart at a terrific rate; people, on the other hand, put things together. People build bridges and cities and roads; they write music and novels and constitutions; they have ideas. That is why people are here; the universe as it were needs somebody to keep it from falling apart.
Now, for a long time I have taken this notion of Fuller's to mean something even he probably did not intend: that imaginative acts actually weigh in the balance of physical processes. Imaginative acts - even purely mental combinations, like the thought that a certain cloud represents a top hat - carry real weight in the universe. . . . A completed novel in a trunk in the attic is an order added to to the sum of the universe's order. It remakes its share of undoing. It counteracts the decaying systems, the breakdown of stars and cultures and molecules, the fraying of forms. It works."

I can't remember if that related to your post Blade but I thought it was a good quote anyhow.


Anonymous said...

Good quote, and it's appropriate I think. I will be doing a kind of follow-up to that last post of mine, and this fits right in with that. Fiction as science or fiction as illusion. The metaphor that was provocative was literature as a clear glass window to be looked through, or literature as a stained glass window to be looked at. Which is a massive topic to break down to 500 words, so watch out for that.

Your quote does remind me of the novel The Road to Mars by Eric Idle of Monthy Python fame. A character in the book is trying to establish the purpose of comedy, and the conclusion is that levity is the force opposite gravity. That having a laugh keeps the universe from collapsing in on itself.

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Seems like this picture could be at least partially filled out with Rupert Sheldrake's morphic resonance theory.

Haven't read it but the book that spells it out is _The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance & the Habits of Nature_