Why would anyone not want to explore the multiverse? Its an opportunity to go where no man has gone before . And it only costs a fiver..
I give the admission guy a twenty..
Do you want change ?
Well I could go round four times instead..
I ve passed the humorous retort test. There’s not much to do in Sanquhar but manning the car park in an open cast site can be a long day even so. They tell me I am the fortieth visitor.
Thats quite a good day for us
Space is lonely , and as destination for a traditional brown sign daytrip it can feel fairly immense. It does look a bit like an abandoned quarry, which could be a reasonable analogy for the universe, all rock and sharp sides.
My most frequent fellow orbiter is a sprightly pensioner known as Poppa to his satellite grandweans, who he is failing to frighten with rumours of dragons and unicorns. I think The Alien might work better.
Hes good at quips.. ‘Might be nice when they finish it’, which feels like something one of Douglas Adams‘ characters might have said.
This is the most sculptural part of the park, it most pompous and least successful. Thankfully it’s being inhabitated by a rabbit and a pair of wheatears, and already has the feel of an abandoned civic sculpture rusting on a roundabout in a new town.
What I like about Charles Jencks, from a distance at least , is that he appears to have no concerns about pretentiousness , scale or limitations on genre.At his best he is syncretic, at his worst pompous and simplistic. Maybe these have to come together.
I think you’d need to be a bit arrogant to design and build your own universe. At times I quite applaud this and am expanded- at others, much like Poppa, am having a good time practicing my sense of facetiousness. I contemplate the view from the Omphalos down the column of megaliths marking a ley across the site and out into the distance . I follow the avenue and find it trained on the Portaloo in the car park – marked’ WC in Fields’.
The most interesting monument on the site breaks the line of megaliths leading away from the Omphalos. There’s a kind of amphitheatre, a couple of symmetric geometric pools and an inlaid …. sculpture containing a spiral of lots of red cup and ring marked pebbles> the explanatory text ( I assume by Jencks)
They contain red spirals and target forms, looking like ancient life, but actually they are self organising patterns. I call them Liesgang rocks , after the German chemist who discovered such patterns in 1896.Pulsating rhythms of iron oxide formed in a white desert, and then solidified. They are little globes of energy , micro-suns and stars, except in a white matrix, and tiny. They grew, in a few places in the Nith, through a reaction diffusion cycle, wave forms that pulsate again and again, 1-2-3-4 – supersaturation, nucleation, precipitation, depletion. The rhythm builds up and dances to exhaustion.
Poppa and his clan pass. He murmurs ‘Bah humbug’ , I think, at me poring over the commentary. I smile but my connection to cosmic speculation has loosened. I feel a little exposed – but he hasn’t actually called me a swotty bastard ,and I have been able to retain that old Caledonian antiszygy which is our birthright.
Unfortunately the next line I read is
The non-living looks strangely alive , like a work of art, an agent of the sun itself . In the mosaic Madame Sun pulls Monsieur Earth in spirals , just as she spirals around our galaxy every 200 million years
Its like, all connected..
In fairness I don’t know of anyone who has been able to contemplate the vastness of the universe with out talking a pile of pseudometaphysical bollocks . Carl Sagan, Arthur C Clarke, Albert Einstein, Brian Cox, Leonard Nimoy, Stephen Hawking – all apparently smart dudes whose heads ultimately expanded infinitely into space.
But does that mean that we should not look at it/ or try to expand our horizons?
According to what astronomers have dubbed the Strong Copernical principle, we live in a universe which looks the same in every direction one looks at, from every point in space and time.. It is only when one zooms in that features start to stick out..
His sister, Rachel, an artist , has tried to create something approximating to 4 dimensional space to represent what this might feel like .I dont like it much , but that’s not the point. Its the kind of hippy crap I can relate to.
It seems to me the clever stuff is not to apply overarching metaphors to the universe but to see if the universe can teach us different ways to think about our world, and of course, ourselves.
From my visit to the Multiverse I learnt that my wondering needs to pass through a filter of plebean skepticisms before I can make use of it. There appears to be a small Maxwell’s daemon somewhere in there sorting out the destiny of these ideas.
One of Jencks’ big things is that Universes seem to be created from collisions and chaos, and that these things are therefore potentially creative . He is, of course, talking about art and ideas, at least by implication (which may be why entropy doesn’t seem to form part of his thinking). Around the site there are designs of universes emerging funnel-like (or phoenix-like if you prefer) from preceding ones.
The guys in the Portacabin don’t have any souvenirs for sale, but they are glad to see me again. They ll make it to Edinburgh one day , to look at that gallery thing – but maybe they ll have better things to do ‘on thon Rose Street’.
They are selling very cheap ice creams. Unsurprisingly they haven’t any tubs left ( I guess they had less than forty in stock), but they do have ice lollies for 50p. I last had an ice lolly in the 1970s and it looked (and cost) kind of the same. Like a space rocket, and as I suck it new layers of brilliantly dyed cylindrical ice emerge from the funnel-shaped preceding layer. I wonder if God, or Charles Jencks , might have a sense of humour after all.