Cones Quotes

Authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
There is a tree. At the downhill edge of a long, narrow field in the western foothills of the La Sal Mountains - southeastern Utah. A particular tree. A juniper. Large for its species - maybe twenty feet tall and two feet in diameter. For perhaps three hundred years this tree has stood its ground. Flourishing in good seasons, and holding on in bad times. "Beautiful" is not a word that comes to mind when one first sees it. No naturalist would photograph it as exemplary of its kind. Twisted by wind, split and charred by lightning, scarred by brushfires, chewed on by insects, and pecked by birds. Human beings have stripped long strings of bark from its trunk, stapled barbed wire to it in using it as a corner post for a fence line, and nailed signs on it on three sides: NO HUNTING; NO TRESPASSING; PLEASE CLOSE THE GATE. In commandeering this tree as a corner stake for claims of rights and property, miners and ranchers have hacked signs and symbols in its bark, and left Day-Glo orange survey tape tied to its branches. Now it serves as one side of a gate between an alfalfa field and open range. No matter what, in drought, flood heat and cold, it has continued. There is rot and death in it near the ground. But at the greening tips of its upper branches and in its berrylike seed cones, there is yet the outreach of life. I respect this old juniper tree. For its age, yes. And for its steadfastness in taking whatever is thrown at it. That it has been useful in a practical way beyond itself counts for much, as well. Most of all, I admire its capacity for self-healing beyond all accidents and assaults. There is a will in it - toward continuing to be, come what may.

Robert Fulghum
You are God. You want to make a forest, something to hold the soil, lock up energy, and give off oxygen. Wouldn't it be simpler just to rough in a slab of chemicals, a green acre of goo? You are a man, a retired railroad worker who makes replicas as a hobby. You decide to make a replica of one tree, the longleaf pine your great-grandfather planted- just a replica- it doesn't have to work. How are you going to do it? How long do you think you might live, how good is your glue? For one thing, you are going to have to dig a hole and stick your replica trunk halfway to China if you want the thing to stand up. Because you will have to work fairly big; if your replica is too small, you'll be unable to handle the slender, three-sided needles, affix them in clusters of three in fascicles, and attach those laden fascicles to flexible twigs. The twigs themselves must be covered by 'many silvery-white, fringed, long-spreading scales.' Are your pine cones' scales 'thin, flat, rounded at the apex?' When you loose the lashed copper wire trussing the limbs to the trunk, the whole tree collapses like an umbrella. You are a sculptor. You climb a great ladder; you pour grease all over a growing longleaf pine. Next, you build a hollow cylinder around the entire pine... and pour wet plaster over and inside the pine. Now open the walls, split the plaster, saw down the tree, remove it, discard, and your intricate sculpture is ready: this is the shape of part of the air. You are a chloroplast moving in water heaved one hundred feet above ground. Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen in a ring around magnesium... you are evolution; you have only begun to make trees. You are god- are you tired? Finished?

Annie Dillard
But it so happens that everything on this planet is, ultimately, irrational; there is not, and cannot be, any reason for the causal connexion of things, if only because our use of the word "reason" already implies the idea of causal connexion. But, even if we avoid this fundamental difficulty, Hume said that causal connexion was not merely unprovable, but unthinkable; and, in shallower waters still, one cannot assign a true reason why water should flow down hill, or sugar taste sweet in the mouth. Attempts to explain these simple matters always progress into a learned lucidity, and on further analysis retire to a remote stronghold where every thing is irrational and unthinkable. If you cut off a man's head, he dies. Why? Because it kills him. That is really the whole answer. Learned excursions into anatomy and physiology only beg the question; it does not explain why the heart is necessary to life to say that it is a vital organ. Yet that is exactly what is done, the trick that is played on every inquiring mind. Why cannot I see in the dark? Because light is necessary to sight. No confusion of that issue by talk of rods and cones, and optical centres, and foci, and lenses, and vibrations is very different to Edwin Arthwait's treatment of the long-suffering English language. Knowledge is really confined to experience. The laws of Nature are, as Kant said, the laws of our minds, and, as Huxley said, the generalization of observed facts. It is, therefore, no argument against ceremonial magic to say that it is "absurd" to try to raise a thunderstorm by beating a drum; it is not even fair to say that you have tried the experiment, found it would not work, and so perceived it to be "impossible." You might as well claim that, as you had taken paint and canvas, and not produced a Rembrandt, it was evident that the pictures attributed to his painting were really produced in quite a different way. You do not see why the skull of a parricide should help you to raise a dead man, as you do not see why the mercury in a thermometer should rise and fall, though you elaborately pretend that you do; and you could not raise a dead man by the aid of the skull of a parricide, just as you could not play the violin like Kreisler; though in the latter case you might modestly add that you thought you could learn. This is not the special pleading of a professed magician; it boils down to the advice not to judge subjects of which you are perfectly ignorant, and is to be found, stated in clearer and lovelier language, in the Essays of Thomas Henry Huxley.

Aleister Crowley
Moving on, while he wondered, the dark through which Mr. Lecky's light cut grew more beautiful with scents. Particles of solid matter so minute, gases so subtle, that they filtered through stopping and sealing, hung on the unstirred air. Drawn in with Mr. Lecky's breath came impalpable dews cooked out of disintegrating coal. Distilled, chemically split and reformed, they ended in flawless simulation of the aromas of gums, the scent of woods and the world's flowers. The chemists who made them could do more than that. Loose on the gloom were perfumes of flowers which might possibly have bloomed but never had, and the strong-smelling saps of trees either lost or not yet evolved. Mixed in the mucus of the pituitary membrane, these volatile essences meant more than synthetic chemistry to Mr. Lecky. Their microscopic slime coated the bushed-out ends of the olfactory nerve; their presence was signaled to the anterior of the brain's temporal lobe. At once, thought waited on them, tossing down from the great storehouse of old images, neglected ideas - sandalwood and roses, musk and lavender. Mr. Lecky stood still, wrung by pangs as insistent and unanswerable as hunger. He was prodded by the unrest of things desired, not had; the surfeit of things had, not desired. More than anything he could see, or words, or sounds, these odors made him stupidly aware of the past. Unable to remember it, whence he was, or where he had previously been, all that was sweet, impermanent and gone came back not spoiled by too much truth or exact memory. Volatile as the perfumes, the past stirred him with longing for what was not - the only beloved beauty which you will have to see but which you may not keep. Mr. Lecky's beam of light went through glass top and side of a counter, displayed bottles of colored liquid - straw, amber, topaz - threw shadows behind their diverse shapes. He had no use for perfume. All the distraction, all the sense of loss and implausible sweetness which he felt was in memory of women. Behind the counter, Mr. Lecky, curious, took out bottles, sniffed them, examined their elaborately varied forms - transparent squares, triangles, cones, flattened ovals. Some were opaque, jet or blue, rough with embedded metals in intricate design. This great and needless decoration of the flasks which contained it was one strange way to express the inexpressible. Another way was tried in the names put on the bottles. Here words ran the suggestive or symbolic gamut of idealized passion, or festive night, of desired caresses, or of abstractions of the painful allure yet farther fetched. Not even in the hopeful, miracle-raving fancy of those who used the perfumes could a bottle of liquid have any actual magic. Since the buyers at the counters must be human beings, nine of every ten were beyond this or other help. Women, young, but unlovely and unloved, women, whatever they had been, now at the end of it and ruined by years or thickened to caricature by fat, ought to be the ones called to mind by perfume. But they were not. Mr. Lecky held the bottle in his hand a long while, aware of the tenth woman.

James Gould Cozzens
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