Sunday, 12 May 2013

the unpredictable swerve of atoms

Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
Guillaume Apollinaire

The pursuit of happiness or being in the moment or achieving our bliss. These ideas are not new, but they are touted these days by gurus and self-help book authors and advertising strategists and t.shirt designers as though the concept of happiness was a discovery of the 21st century.

Clinamen. The Latin name Lucretius gave to the unpredictable swerve of atoms which occurs at no fixed place or time. Atoms move straight down through the void by their own weight, deflect a bit in space at a quite uncertain time and in uncertain places, just enough so you could say that their motion has changed. But if they didn't swerve, they would just fall, like rain and there would be no collision. And nature would not have produced anything.

Lucretius would have this indeterminacy as providing the "free will which living things throughout the world have".

Sometimes, as we fall through life, we collide with a person who alters our motion. The collision may be only brief as you move together for a moment, sharing space and time and food and wine and ideas and hopes.

But better to have swerved and collided than to have never swerved at all.

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