Why I find things beautiful

I am listening to Prophecies by Philip Glass. I find it very beautiful. Especially the break around 8:45. It gives me those special shivers that come from things that are beautiful beyond comprehension.

On my last flight out to California I got a glimpse out of the window as the flight came in over greenland. I remember feeling a little knot of – more than fear – of awe perhaps. Watching endless folds of white ice roll on beneath you for seemingly forever is a stark reminder of how little of even our own planet is hospitable to us. A strip of temperate zone around the belly of the planet that has taken tens of thousands of years to carve out, that we have filled with roads and cities and the rest of the life support systems of human civilisation, and that would collapse back into wilderness without our constant supervision. The human world is a profoundly unstable place: a few patches of solid ground  on the cooling surface of a ball of molten rock orbiting a vast nuclear explosion that is in turn part of one great big bang.

Philip Glass wrote Prophecies for the documentary movie Koyanisquatsi, which for anyone who hasn’t seen it is all about the relationship between man and the natural world. Prophecies scores the films final sequence, and Glass captures in music the awesome fragility of human existence. I feel the the same touch of awe listening to it as looking down at those frozen wastes.

Back on planet earth…

Pretty much every major author of literary fiction of recent years is slated in The Guardian’s Worst Books of the Decade. Speculative fiction triumphs from its omission.

The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi makes TIME magazines Top 10 Books of 2009.

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