Friday, August 14, 2009

The story so far


I have mentioned here before my friend John Holstead, the sculptor. Last year it was with regard to a work called "The Shape of the Universe," which came in three versions -- wood, stainless steel, and glass. They are now hanging in the lobby of the secondary school in Dingle. From the balcony, students can look into those evocative shapes and wonder what was going on in John's mind as he pondered the four-dimensional space-time continuum.

John has a hearty respect for science. He says: "We have an insatiable desire for an understanding of the laws of the universe and of where we fit in with them, We have learnt an awful lot, but it seems that as each question is answered, a dozen more questions appear to take its place. And still we search. It is the searching that makes us what we are. It is the searching that is the foundation of all religions, each of which has its own creation story, and,if you are good, a happy ending. Neat little packages of answers, gift wrapped in sanctity. Science has no fancy wrapping, but it usually does what it says on the tin, and, if it doesn't, it is quickly removed from the shelves."

This summer I find him working on a piece called "The Story So Far," which I take is a further step in the evolution of John's universe. It is hard to tell from this angle in the photograph, but the shape is based on a double Mobius strip. I am not quite sure what John is trying to tell us about the story: A one-sided story with no beginning or end? The internal and external convolutions of the piece -- put together from laminations -- could only have been conceived, much less expressed, with the aid of a computer, and John's love affair with his big-screen Apple Mac seems to almost equal his love affair with wood.

If a personal God did design and make the universe, as the ancient religions tell us, I would like to imagine him looking rather like the fellow in the photograph here. And what would he be thinking? "Nice story so far. Now if only those feckers on Earth would stop making such a mess of things, and in my name no less."