William Blake critiqued Issac Newton in the claim that scientific enquiry for its own sake was a folly that saw the scientist ignore the beauty of the world for the sake of an equation. Blake saw all the answers he needed in the world around him in nature’s beauty and in his imagination, rather than seek the need to pin down the beauty of the world via mathematical equations. The worldviews of Blake and Newton could not have been further apart, though in truth they were probably more alike than Blake cared to admit. They knew the world contained a truth that they could capture and represent; Blake through visuals and text, Newton through calculus. They were both in pursuit of the representation of the Earth’s patterns of existence, its poetry.
Blake’s grievance however was what he saw as the scientific community’s denial of the answers provided in the world’s innate spirituality. He used Newton as a symbol of science’s new direction, and in his painting of Newton showed how the scientist had become disconnected from the luxurious world around him.
I make no secret of the fact that I started to research community media after working as a facilitator/practitioner in it for 11 years, and I basically needed to get off the treadmill for a while and analyse what it was I was doing, and not just keeping on doing it all the time with no reflection. The relentless pursuit of ‘workshop’ ground me down. I still run occasional workshops and media projects, but as my bones get tired, old and weary, the thought of staying at home writing instead is appealing I have to admit. I also now have children of my own, so have developed the selfish need to spend the evenings and weekends with my own offspring, rather than primarily with other people’s. (I know….it takes a village to raise a child…. etc!).
Working in academic research the journey towards becoming a parody of Blake’s rendition of Newton could only be a few paces away. I make the following image as a self-manifesto of the need to stay grounded, related and connected. To keep in touch with the poetry of the world, and to not get blinded by the pursuit of research for it own sake, with no discernable use or purpose.
Postscript: Newton’s ideas have turned out to be extremely useful centuries after his (so-called) blinkered world view. Looks like I needn’t worry after all. Just do and be damned!!!!