Gaia II – Truth and Beauty

James Lovelock ends ‘Gaia‘ with a rather profound summary: 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them 

Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I googled for the origins, and should have guessed the first two paragraphs – they are from the King James Bible; Ecclesiastes 3. 

But the third line is interesting too. If indeed ‘beauty’ is the lion’s share of ‘all ye know’ and ‘need to know’ on earth, and ‘truth’ the rest; does this give a simple recipe for the ‘good life’? 

Perhaps not quite that simple. The meaning of this line from Keat’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn‘ has been heavily debated down the years.

Still – this week I found from myself looking at nature more intently as a result of Lovelock and Keats. But Lovelock’s own ‘last word’ set me thinking too…

There can be no prescription, no set of rules, for living within Gaia. For each of our different actions there are only consequences.

This connected my with my developing ‘inner Buddhist’. Life takes is course; many thing happened before us and many more will happen after. 

This morning, I scanned my instagram photos from the last few years, to look at what I take photos of… 

Far from exhaustive; but a funny old selection of the beauty of nature, mankind’s profound and profane imprint on it – and our ongoing search for truth…

Truth and beauty might not be such bad guides. 


Ecclesiastes – King James Version 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

The Longer View

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Camping up a hill in Devon you can’t help but take the longer view. Hills that have been there forever. The toil – even in the modern mechanised era – in taming and working the land.

Life is defined by sunrise and sunset and the fullest of moons. It made me think. I spend too much time staring at small text-laden screens and far too little looking at the bigger picture.

There is good evidence that short-sightedness is exacerbated by the eye not getting frequent enough opportunity to resolve to the infinite horizon. My eyes hurt when we first arrived. I couldn’t comfortably view the tree line – it felt like a strain.

Put the iPhone away (nowhere to charge it) and in a day or two my eyes were comfortably drawn to the hills and distant pastures – retuned to their natural state.

There are perhaps four more summers before my little family starts to fragment. Maybe only four more times we’ll pitch and strike our tent, in that farm field with friends and their kids.

For all the packing and unpacking, fetching and carrying, cooking and scrubbing, it is hard to imagine that it won’t go on forever. The trees, the meadow of buttercups, the hills and streams. All green, verdant and full of life…

And in one day back in the big city forgotten and distant. After a week at work, a world away.

The longer view, the far horizon and the here and now. I work too hard, for enough money but too little thanks. I should change my focus or soon I will need a different plan.