Just finished The Meaning of Human Existence by E. O. Wilson, born in June 1929 and still striking sparks with his thoughts on human evolution, our ceaseless search for meaning in the universe, music and religion, free will, instinct, and the distinctive contributions of science and humanities. My copy bristles with sticky notes. He says multi-level evolution explains that internal/ eternal conflict in our brains between selfishness benefiting the individual, and altruism benefiting the group. Favorite chapter title: “Humanity Lost in a Pheromone World,” where he paints a striking picture “of how very specialized and peculiar is our beloved species”—the species that “won the grand lottery of evolution,” creating civilization based on symbolic language and culture. But because we rely on sight and sound, not smell and taste, we miss a wealth of sensory information available to other species – maybe explaining why we, in his words, are “heedlessly destroying” the earth’s biodiversity. He concludes that this century requires humans to choose to make life sustainable for as many species as possible. A good thought for Earth Day.
I still have not returned the borrowed copy of Tom Stoppard’s play, The Invention of Love. I should, but keep re-opening and re-reading. It stops my heart with beauty. Inside the little volume, we meet A. E. Housman, both young and old, with his desire for a monument driving his ferocious scholarly restoration of the texts of Roman love poetry, the cost of his unfulfilled love for an Oxford classmate, the emergence of his poems. Dry wit, self-abnegating, staged on the banks of the River Styx or the River Isis in Oxford, with Housman talking to his younger self, the Oxford student. If ever you have a chance to read the play, or see it, it’s worth it. Even if, or because, after you see it you’ll want to read the play all over again.