Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3)


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by Tash Aw

Taking a chance, I turned off my running lights, and it got even darker. Then I turned off my engine. I lay down in the boat and looked up. A very dark night sky seen from the ocean is a mystical experience. After a few minutes, my world had dissolved into that star-littered sky. The boat disappeared. My body disappeared. And I found myself falling into infinity. And the vast expanse of time — extending from the far distant past long before I was born and then into the far distant future long after I will die — seemed compressed to a dot.

I felt connected not only to the stars but to all of nature, and to the entire cosmos. I felt a merging with something far larger than myself, a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute. After a time, I sat up and started the engine again. Lightman — the first professor at MIT to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and the humanities — syncopates this numinous experience with the reality of his lifelong devotion to science:. I have worked as a physicist for many years, and I have always held a purely scientific view of the world.

By that, I mean that the universe is made of material and nothing more, that the universe is governed exclusively by a small number of fundamental forces and laws, and that all composite things in the world, including humans and stars, eventually disintegrate and return to their component parts. Even at the age of twelve or thirteen, I was impressed by the logic and materiality of the world. I built my own laboratory and stocked it with test tubes and petri dishes, Bunsen burners, resistors and capacitors, coils of electrical wire. Among other projects, I began making pendulums by tying a fishing weight to the end of a string.

With the help of a stopwatch and ruler, I verified this wonderful law. Logic and pattern. Cause and effect. As far as I could tell, everything was subject to numerical analysis and quantitative test. I saw no reason to believe in God, or in any other unprovable hypotheses. Yet after my experience in that boat many years later… I understood the powerful allure of the Absolutes — ethereal things that are all-encompassing, unchangeable, eternal, sacred. At the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, I remained a scientist.

I remained committed to the material world. Conversely, however, notions that belong to this realm of Absolutes fall apart when they make claims in the realm of science — claims disproven by the facts of the material world. With an eye to how the discoveries of modern science — from heliocentricity to evolution to the chemical composition of the universe — have challenged many of these Absolutes, Lightman writes:.

Nothing in the physical world seems to be constant or permanent. Stars burn out. Atoms disintegrate. Species evolve.

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Motion is relative. Even other universes might exist, many without life. Unity has given way to multiplicity. I say that the Absolutes have been challenged rather than disproved, because the notions of the Absolutes cannot be disproved any more than they can be proved. The Absolutes are ideals, entities, beliefs in things that lie beyond the physical world. Some may be true and some false, but the truth or falsity cannot be proven. From all the physical and sociological evidence, the world appears to run not on absolutes but on relatives, context, change, impermanence, and multiplicity.

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Nothing is fixed. All is in flux. On the one hand, such an onslaught of discovery presents a cause for celebration… Is it not a testament to our minds that we little human beings with our limited sensory apparatus and brief lifespans, stuck on our one planet in space, have been able to uncover so much of the workings of nature? On the other hand, we have found no physical evidence for the Absolutes. And just the opposite. All of the new findings suggest that we live in a world of multiplicities, relativities, change, and impermanence. In the physical realm, nothing persists.

Nothing lasts. Nothing is indivisible. Nothing is a whole. Nothing is indestructible. Nothing is still. If the physical world were a novel, with the business of examining evil and good, it would not have the clear lines of Dickens but the shadowy ambiguities of Dostoevsky. She writes:. But Sally was family, and in more than one sense. Dogs, like all placental mammals, share 90 percent of our genetic material. Dogs evolved with humans. Octavia and I were separated by half a billion years of evolution. We were as different as land from sea.

Was it even possible for a human to understand the emotions of a creature as different from us as an octopus? Being friends with an octopus — whatever that friendship meant to her — has shown me that our world, and the worlds around and within it, is aflame with shades of brilliance we cannot fathom — and is far more vibrant, far more holy, than we could ever imagine.

In our interior experience as individuals, as in the public forum of our shared experience as a culture, our courage lives in the same room as our fear — it is in troubled times, in despairing times, that we find out who we are and what we are capable of.

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That is what the great poet, essayist, feminist, and civil rights champion Audre Lorde February 18, —November 17, explores with exquisite self-possession and might of character in a series of diary entries included in A Burst of Light: and Other Essays public library. Seventeen days before she turned fifty, and six years after she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer, Lorde was told she had liver cancer. She declined surgery and even a biopsy, choosing instead to go on living her life and her purpose, exploring alternative treatments as she proceeded with her planned teaching trip to Europe.

In a diary entry penned on her fiftieth birthday, Lorde reckons with the sudden call to confront the ultimate fear:. Afraid is a country where they issue us passports at birth and hope we never seek citizenship in any other country. The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change.


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Jettison cargo. Exactly a month after her diagnosis, with the medical establishment providing more confusion than clarity as she confronts her mortality, Lorde resolves in her journal:. Dear goddess!

Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3)

Face-up again against the renewal of vows. Do not let me die a coward, mother. Nor forget how to sing. Nor forget song is a part of mourning as light is a part of sun.

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By the spring, she had lost nearly fifty pounds. But she was brimming with a crystalline determination to do the work of visibility and kinship across difference. She dances with her fear in an entry penned six days later:. I am listening to what fear teaches. I will never be gone.

I am a scar, a report from the frontlines, a talisman, a resurrection. A rough place on the chin of complacency. If to name is to see and reveal — to remove the veil of blindness, willful or manipulated, and expose things as they really are — then it is in turn another step in remaking the world, another form of resistance to the damaging dominant narratives that go unquestioned.

Some still do. Calling things by their true names cuts through the lies that excuse, buffer, muddle, disguise, avoid, or encourage inaction, indifference, obliviousness. When the subject is grim, I think of the act of naming as diagnosis. Research, support, and effective treatment, as well as possibly redefining the disease and what it means, can proceed from this first step.

Once you name a disorder, you may be able to connect to the community afflicted with it, or build one. To name something truly is to lay bare what may be brutal or corrupt — or important or possible — and key to the work of changing the world is changing the story. Chance and choice converge to make us who we are, and although we may mistake chance for choice , our choices are the cobblestones, hard and uneven, that pave our destiny.

They are ultimately all we can answer for and point to in the architecture of our character. A century before Didion, Friedrich Nietzsche October 15, —August 25, composed the score for harmonizing our choices and our contentment with the life they garner us.

The legacy of that deceptively simple yet profound proposition is what philosopher John J. Kaag explores in Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are public library — part masterwork of poetic scholarship, part contemplative memoir concerned with the most fundamental question of human life: What gives our existence meaning? He writes:. The self is not a hermetically sealed, unitary actor Nietzsche knew this well , but its flourishing depends on two things: first, that it can choose its own way to the greatest extent possible, and then, when it fails, that it can embrace the fate that befalls it.

Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3) Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3)
Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3) Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3)
Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3) Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3)
Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3) Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3)
Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3) Echoes in the Night (The Restless Book 3)

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