Sebastian Faulks has just completed a documentary series on the electric television about literature. I watched it. It was good. He has written some books. I have read some of them. They were good. I doubt whether I will read them again. They weren’t that good.
His television series was informative and well presented, putting various aspects of the novel into context. It helped that I had read nearly all of the books he talked about. He seems to be an excellent choice as presenter - articulate and interesting.
The only slightly off-putting aspect was of the series was his habit of popping up in strange places (usually associated with the location of the novel in question) to talk to the camera. An interesting choice of locations, and probably better than an hour of him sitting on a sofa in Potters Bar.
Brian Cox’s documentary currently showing on the electric television is one quarter of the way through, and is about the universe. I watched it. It was good. He has written some books. I haven’t read them, and probably won’t. He has been on television quite a lot, being quite photogenic as physicists go. And as physicists go on, he went on. (Thank you, H H Munro).
The programme was interesting and well presented, and at the end of it I had a better understanding of the second law of thermodynamics than I had at the beginning. Whether that will help me in my construction of my sandwich for lunch tomorrow remains to be seen.
The only slightly off-putting aspect of the series was his habit of popping up in strange places to talk to the camera - Peru, Namibia and Costa Rica for example. When you are talking about the age of the universe, you don’t really gain much by trying to measure it against human time frames, or even time frames comprehendible by the human mind, so I don’t know why he felt the need to go to these places. The sea turtles in Costa Rica shared my reservations. “Fuck off, I’m trying to lay my eggs in peace, you fucking pervert” one of them said. At least I think that is what she said – they speak Spanish with a funny accent down in Costa Rica.
Beyond that, it is difficult to compare the two programmes. The novel can give us an insight into the human condition, and stir our feelings. If we can put the writer and his times into context, it might help us to understand it better.
Despite whatever I have written about the silliness of scientists, I can be equally stirred by their pursuit of understanding, and mankind’s attempt to put his existence into perspective by considering his place in the universe. The second law, which is pretty much accepted to be quite accurate by most of the scientific fraternity postulates that the universe will eventually end. Energy will be dissipated, matter will be broken down into radiation and disappear, and there will be nothing left. The good news is that there will be lots of it. A little on the bleak side, but it won’t happen before next Tuesday, so no need to fret just yet.
Here’s what I reckon:
- I am going to die at some stage. Probably before the end of the universe.
- I do not have the capacity to understand the universe
- The collective understanding of the total scientific community to date is miniscule and as likely to be seen as quaint in 200 years time as Jane Austens’ view of society is judged today.
- There are some things, and the essence of human existence is at the core of these things, that are too beautiful and mind blowing to be conceived or understood, and we are better off experiencing them than trying to explain them. Our explanations, whether religious or secular, scientific or mystical, are incapable of even beginning to approach the utter bliss of being.