Right here we’re, every of us a conveyable pageant of marvel, standing on this rocky physique born by brutality, fashioned from the particles that first swarmed the Solar 4.5 billion years in the past and pulverized one another in a gauntlet of violent collisions, ultimately forging the Moon and the Earth. Right here we’re, now standing on it, on this unbelievable planet bred of violence, which grew as much as be a world able to bushes and tenderness. A acutely aware world. A world formed by physics and animated by artwork, by poetry, by music and arithmetic— the totally different languages now we have developed to hearken to actuality and communicate it again to ourselves. Right here we’re, voicing in these totally different our elementary wonderment: What is all this? This byproduct of actuality we name life: not possible, not even needed, and but it’s all we all know, as a result of it’s all we’re, and it’s with the entire of what we’re that we reckon with actuality, that we lengthy to fathom it— from the size of gluons to the size of galaxies, from the thriller of the cell to the thriller of the soul.
Each every now and then— maybe a few times a century, if we’re fortunate— atoms shed by dying stars constellate right into a residing thoughts so shimmering, so uncommonly gifted in a number of fathoming-languages, that poems and work, elegies and equations, theorems and songs spring from it with equal ardor and equal magnificence. Rebecca Elson was one. Richard Feynman (Might 11, 1918–February 15, 1988) was one other— a Nobel-winning physicist, a thinker, an artist, composer of the world’s most lyrical footnote and most bittersweet love letter, who noticed no boundary between data and thriller, between our totally different modes of fathoming actuality and serenading the marvel of the universe that made us. Within the autumn of 1955, a decade earlier than he gained the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work on quantum electrodynamics, Feynman took the rostrum on the Nationwide Academy of Sciences to ponder the worth of science. Halfway via his characteristically eloquent and intellectually elegant lecture, addressing the nation’s most orthodox viewers of educational scientists, he burst into what can greatest be described as a splendid prose-poem concerning the thriller and marvel of life, impressed by a reflective second he spent alone on the sting of the ocean, the place Rachel Carson too discovered the that means of life. It later turned the epilogue to Feynman’s ultimate assortment of autobiographical reflections, What Do You Care What Different Individuals Assume? (public library), printed the yr of his loss of life.
On this ninth and ultimate installment of the animated Universe in Verse, legendary cellist and Silkroad founder Yo-Yo Ma— one of the boundlessly curious and wonder-smitten minds I do know, who knew Feynman and shares with him a passionate appreciation of science because the native poetry of actuality— brings this prose-poem to life in a soulful, symphonic studying with a facet of Bach, animated by artist and designer Kelli Anderson (who beforehand animated Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Optimism” on the second annual Universe in Verse in 2018 and Amanda Palmer’s studying of “Hubble Pictures: After Sappho” by Adrienne Wealthy on the third stay present in 2019). Radiating from all of it— from Feynman’s phrases, from Yo-Yo’s music, from Kelli’s animation— is what Feynman himself as soon as instructed Yo-Yo: “Nature has the best creativeness of all.”
[UNTITLED ODE TO THE WONDER OF LIFE]
by Richard Feynman
I stand on the seashore, alone, and begin to assume. There are the dashing waves… mountains of molecules, every stupidly minding its personal enterprise… trillions aside… but forming white surf in unison.
Ages on ages… earlier than any eyes might see… yr after yr… thunderously pounding the shore as now. For whom, for what?… on a lifeless planet, with no life to entertain.
By no means at relaxation… tortured by power… wasted prodigiously by the solar… poured into area. A mite makes the ocean roar.
Deep within the sea, all molecules repeat the patterns of each other until advanced new ones are fashioned. They make others like themselves… and a brand new dance begins.
Rising in measurement and complexity… residing issues, lots of atoms, DNA, protein… dancing a sample ever extra intricate.
Out of the cradle onto the dry land… right here it’s standing… atoms with consciousness… matter with curiosity.
Stands on the sea… wonders at questioning… I… a universe of atoms… an atom within the universe.
This put up was initially printed on The Marginalian. Beforehand on The Universe in Verse: Chapter 1 (the evolution of flowers and the start of ecology, with Emily Dickinson); Chapter 2 (Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble, and the age of area telescopes, with Tracy Ok. Smith); Chapter 3 (trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell and the poetry of the cosmic perspective, with David Byrne and Pattiann Rogers); Chapter 4 (darkish matter and the thriller of our mortal stardust, with Patti Smith and Rebecca Elson); Chapter 5 (a singularity-ode to our primeval bond with nature and one another, starring Toshi Reagon and Marissa Davis); Chapter 6 (Emmy Noether, symmetry, and the conservation of power, with Amanda Palmer and Edna St. Vincent Millay); Chapter 7 (the science of entropy and the artwork of other endings, with Janna Levin and W.H. Auden); Chapter 8 (nonhuman consciousness and the marvel of octopus intelligence, with Sy Montgomery and Marilyn Nelson).