Ah, book sales and good music - I love them both! The most recent book sale in our town occurred a few weeks ago, just in time fill our larder with plenty of material to keep us entertained and feed our intellect throughout the quiet, dark evenings of fall and winter. This year, I found a particularly amazing little gem, a set of four books published in 1947, The World's Great Thinkers. Each book covers a different topic. My current favorite is Man and the Universe: The Philosophers of Science. Serendipitously, the first entry in this book is On the Nature of Things (Book V) by Lucretius, a Roman writer and philosopher who is believed to have lived from 99-55 B.C. Lucretius, happens to have been the exact same person who was mentioned in an article that I had just unearthed from a pile of papers on my desk. Coincidentally, the writer mentioned in this article, Stephen Greenblatt, also discovered the insightful writings of Lucretius through a sale bin of books. Hmm, the universe is at work again trying to get me to pay attention to something.
What is particularly stunning about On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura) is that it has survived for over 2000 years; through the fall of Roman Empire, the Dark Ages and religious and scholarly censorship over the course of centuries. Equally stunning is that, in his book, Lucretius offers readers a clear understanding and explanation of evolution, planetary movements and a view of humans being an integral part of nature. One would expect that something written in this time period would be full of references to gods, goddesses and mysterious miracles, but there is none of that. In fact, it reads as something that could have easily been written in the last century. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite. "In the beginning the earth gave forth all kinds of herbage and verdant sheen about the hills and over all the plains; the flowery meadows glittered with the bright green hue, and next in order to the different trees was given a strong and emulous desire of growing up into the air with full unbridled powers. As feathers and hairs and bristles are first born on the limbs of four-footed beasts and the body of the strong of wing, thus the new earth then first put forth grass and bushes, and next gave birth to the races of mortal creatures springing up many in number in many ways after divers fashions. For no living creatures can have dropped from heaven nor can those belonging to the land have come out of the slat pools. It follows that with good reason the earth has gotten the name of mother, since all things have been produced out of the earth."
Lucretius also shares an observation, that many people even today have yet to see, that our actions and inactions have significant implications for health of our planet. "But because she (referencing mother earth) must have some limit set to her bearing, she ceased like a woman worn out by length of days. For time changes the nature of the whole world and all things must pass on from one condition to another, and nothing continues like to itself: all things quit their bounds, all things nature changes and compels to alter...In this way then time changes the nature of the whole world and the earth passes out of one condition into another: what once it could, it can bear no more, in order to be able to bear what before it did not bear."
Which brings me to band number one, Neil Young and Crazy Horse. They have just released a new album, Colorado, which, I believe, contains many songs that Lucretius would have appreciated. When asked why they decided to do this album, Young stated, "Mostly I would like a lot of people to see what's going on [with] the planet — that's so obvious to me. I just don't know why people don't get it. Or if they do get it, then why don't they get with it?"If you want to listen to a few tracks, simply click on the image to the left. A line from the 13 minute track "She Showed Me Love"states "I saw white guys trying to kill Mother Nature," and then there are the incredibly powerful lyrics of "Green Is Blue"
[Verse 1] We watch the old news Distracted as they talked on and on in the usual way About the latest lies, deceptions We saw tomorrow, we long for a better day And I know why green is blue There's so much we didn't do Oh, I know why green is blue [Verse 2] We heard the warning calls, ignored them We saw the weather change, we saw the fires and floods We saw the people rise, divided We fought each other while we lost our coveted prize There's so much we didn't do That we knew we had to do And we know why green is blue [Verse 3] We watched the species die, we saw the coral turning We watched the oceans rise We saw the pot of whales lay bloated On the shore where they baked, but we missed that sign We saw the polar bear, she floated On a piece of ice from another time
So I know
Lastly, hats off to the second band worth mentioning, Cold Play. This week Coldplay's frontman, Chris Martin, said that his band will not go on tour for the foreseeable future, not even to support their new album, for environmental reasons. Martin told BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson that the group is taking time off from the road to figure out how to make touring more sustainable. The band's new record, “Everyday Life,” comes out today and, instead of spending months on the road, they are playing two gigs in Jordan, which will be broadcast, free, to a global audience on YouTube. The concerts, will take place in Amman at sunrise and sunset, mirroring the two "sides" of their new album. Martin goes on to say in the interview, "The hardest thing is the flying side of things. But, for example, our dream is to have a show with no single use plastic, to have it largely solar powered...We've done a lot of big tours at this point. How do we turn it around so it's not so much taking as giving? He went on to say, "If you've had the privilege of travelling around the world, you know we're all from the same place...In a very gentle British way, this record is us saying we don't feel different from any human on earth." Coldplay's goal is not simply to design a carbon neutral tour, but to have tours that are "actively beneficial" to the planet. By putting their concerts on hold, they're giving up a huge pay day: The Head Full of Dream tour made 523 million dollars, all to bring attention to an environmental issue that many of us do not think about while enjoying our favorite band live. To learn more, click the graph to the left. I think Chris Martins's question of "How do we turn it around so it's not so much taking as giving?" is an important one for all of us to consider.