This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Bits and Pieces

He had so much to give—stories, reflection, engagement—that somehow none of us ever noticed just how much he was withholding. He could love everybody on the terms on which they needed to be loved, give everybody what they needed to receive; and so, in the end, none of us really knew him. I’ve come to realize that he didn’t quite know himself, either.

Danielle Allen on her cousin Michael Alexander Allen, in “The Life of a South Central Statistic”, published in The New Yorker

If there is a universal truth about beauty — some concise and elegant concept that encompasses every variety of charm and grace in existence — we do not yet understand enough about nature to articulate it. What we call beauty is not simply one thing or another, neither wholly purposeful nor entirely random, neither merely a property nor a feeling. Beauty is a dialogue between perceiver and perceived. Beauty is the world’s answer to the audacity of a flower. It is the way a bee spills across the lip of a yawning buttercup; it is the care with which a satin bowerbirdr selects a hibiscus bloom; it is the impulse to re-create water lilies with oil and canvas; it is the need to place roses on a grave.

From Ferris Jabr’s “Beauty of the Beasts,” first published in The New York Times Magazine and included in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2020.

Reminds me a lot of Le Guin asking about the functions of galaxies. What is beauty there for, and why does the concept even exist for us? This wasn’t quite my favourite essay in the collection, but I appreciate how it tried to stretch its line of questioning beyond the immediate scientific implications of its subject matter.

We overlook too much when we hold science and the humanities apart.

“Photographs are precious. They preserve memories. […] They may be nothing more than scraps of paper, but they capture something profound. Light and wind and air, the tenderness or joy of the photographer, the bashfulness or pleasure of the subject. You have to guard these things forever in your heart. That’s why photographs are taken in the first place.

[…] Important things remain important things, no matter how much the world changes. Their essence doesn’t change. If you keep them, they’re bound to bring you something in return.”

From The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (1994).

i chase after that feeling.
which is to say:
i want to almost not exist.
almost is the closest i can get to the sky.

From “Gay Incantations” by Billy-Ray Belcourt