Ashford, Emerson and Galileo

Emerson's essay "Experience," through the eyes of Will Ashford

Gladly we would anchor, but the anchorage is quicksand. This onward trick of nature is too strong for us: Pero si muove. When, at night, I look at the moon and stars, I seem stationary, and they to hurry. Our love of the real draws us to permanence, but health of body consists in circulation, and sanity of mind in variety or facility of association.

From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Experience” (1844)

Above is an image from Will Ashford’s series “Recycled Words.” In explanation of his process he writes,

When I find a good candidate I explore every page. Like an archeologist I hunt for the words that speak to me with new meaning. Intuitively, one word at a time, they turn into a kind of haiku or philosophical poetry that I can call my own.

At some unpredictable point along the way, in my mind, the images start to invent themselves. Using colored vellums, graphite and or India ink to highlight or obscure my words; I create the image of that invention. Though I strive to make each document visually engaging I find it is the words that I value most.

Go here to see the rest of his work. I absolutely love the manner in he takes which what was already art  and recreates and redefines it, making it wholly his own.

As a complete aside, I’ll confess that one of the reasons that I was so drawn to this particular page of his body of work was because it contained the line “peru si muove,” or more commonly written as eppur si muove (“and yet it moves”). Despite the fact that the phrase is nearly grayed out in the final work, my eyes instantly found it. According to myth, this phrase was spoken by Galileo at some point after his trial by the Roman Inquisition, after having had to recant his heliocentric theory. The accounts vary, claiming he said it either at the trial itself, while under house arrest, or later on his death-bed. It may very well be the case that he didn’t even say it at all, but as with Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake,” it hardly matters.

I don’t know what it is about this particular phrase, but it has always, to me at least, represented a kind of both sadness and strength that I find difficult to put into words. On the one hand, it expresses a sadness about the state of the world and the ignorance of the masses. The earth does and will move, despite what everyone wants to believe. I suppose many scientists must still feel that way when faced with the blind ignorance of people who refuse to acknowledge basic scientific fact in favor of some unsubstantiated, and in many cases clearly refuted, belief system. It’s also the sadness that I feel when confronted with homophobia, racism, or any other kind of social injustice. Those ideas are driven by the same kind of ignorance that placed Galileo under house arrest so many centuries ago.

On the other hand, the phrase also symbolic of the resolve to continue to proportion one’s belief to the evidence, as Hume would say. Even more than that, it speaks to the strength to believe in something despite its unpopularity, or even the danger that one may bring to oneself by believing it. It invariably reminds me of the Scopes monkey trial, or Giordano Bruno at the stake; it also calls to mind those that risked their lives in the Underground Railroad, or during the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s.

I’ve often responded to the many conversations I’ve had with fundamentalists or bigots with a low “and yet it moves” muttered under my breath. Granted, they may have no idea what I’m talking about, but at times like that, what else is there to say?

14 thoughts on “Ashford, Emerson and Galileo

  1. Also a beautiful phrase because it shows how, after an “awakening,” a conscious mind will not be able to ignore the truth or pretend to be asleep– I imagine him looking up at the sky when he says this, speaking to himself–
    love these images, as well– what a delightful and insightful way to “read” a page.
    and what a lovely blog you have here; I am looking forward to reading more.

  2. Great post! You tried to find answers to some important questions about the world, it’s people & their belief. Even I also get hurt by the social injustice that’s going on across the world. But let’s hope one day, it will stop. More people have that credibility in them to know what is right and what is wrong.
    Nicely written post, Krismerino. Great job!

  3. Pingback: On Writing in Books « Abominations

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