March 8, 2012
Neil Degrasse Tyson narrated one of the most beautiful monologues I’ve ever heard. Superimposing his description of the most astounding fact about the universe was a treat for every science lover out there. In a nutshell, we are all made of star-stuff…
We were made in the same furnaces that created every planet and star in the universe. We are the universe made sentient, creation itself inspecting and trying to understand itself. In the end, we are all connected on a level that defies everyday comprehension.
It’s why I almost became a physicist.
For much of my youth, I had two great passions: science and language. On the one hand, tales of Asimov and Clarke and the great masters of the Golden Age made me want to find out what was out there. I wanted to know the blueprint of reality. I also wanted to create my own stories, make something that thrilled and stirred my imagination like Ellison, Stoker, and the dozens of other authors I gorged myself on when I was younger. That ability to make others wonder, to feel and imagine things that never existed… That was my goal.
I could either study physics and unlock those secrets… or I could learn to write.
I chose writing. It wasn’t an easy choice. Freshman year at DePauw, I could have gone into science or English. I chose English. Something occurred to me, something I think is the reason we write, the reason we take photographs, the reason we continue to draw and imagine.
There is truly only one of whatever we make.
We are all made of stars, but there is nothing different about the oxygen in my body versus the oxygen in a supernova cloud. If we erased all of history and every scrap of scientific knowledge to start over, eventually, we would discover that matter is composed of atoms. That future society would emerge from the dark ages and eventually find out that the Earth orbits the sun and we came from monkeys.
But we would not have Isaac Asimov. We would not have John Donne. We would be forever without the works of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. And no one would have known the maniacal face of Spider Jerusalem.
There’s bad writing. There’s bad art. That’s a given. But to make something real, something that touches people, is to create something unique and beautiful.
A piece of music that stays with you and speaks to a part of your soul mere words can’t touch.
A poem where every word flows into the other and says more than the sum of its letters.
A photograph where a single moment that will never occur again is forever held behind glass.
Before art and writing, our words just vanished. Our thoughts remained only as long as our memories. Hard facts, scientific constants… those things are universal. They can be found by anyone.
Artists create things that have never been and may never be again.
That’s why I write. I want to learn to say things words can’t convey. I want to imagine pictures that can never be. I want to make others see the world in a different way.
That’s what you do when you write, when you create art. It’s more than the mechanics.