A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘william blake

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait tells readers how the orbit of a newly-discovered object, like one of the newly found moons of Saturn, is calculated.
  • D-Brief looks at the import of observations of the young HD 163296 system, where gas has been detected flowing onto young planets. Is this where atmospheres come from?
  • Gizmodo notes the recent claim by Google to have achieved a quantum computing milestone.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how, in the early 20th century, old unpaved country roads gave way to modern ones.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the latest on Brexit and British politics.
  • Marginal Revolution notes an article arguing Airbnb has helped undermine trust even in Himalayan villages.
  • The NYR Daily looks at a landmark exhibition of the works of William Blake at the Tate Britain.
  • Rocky Planet shows how the hyper-precise records of ice cores can be used to identify not just the existence but the locations of volcanic eruptions.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel looks at a newly-founded mysterious dark ancient massive galaxy that may have insights on the processes of the wider universe.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at a UN report examining how Russia, occupying Crimea, has promoted demographic transformations.
  • Arnold Zwicky tells of his experiences with OUTiL, an organization he helped form in 1991 that brought together out linguists.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait takes a look at an evocative corner of the Pelican Nebula.
  • Centauri Dreams considers if a supernova might have kickstarted hominid evolution by triggering wildfires.
  • D-Brief looks at how scientists examined binary asteroid 1999 KW4 during its flyby on May 25th.
  • JSTOR Daily reports on the development of the radical abolitionism of William Blake.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at centrism as not neutrality but rather as an ideology of its own.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that legal emigration is more common from right-wing dictatorships than from left-wing ones. Is this actually the case?
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes that an image passed off as a hole in the universe a billion light-years wide is actually a photo of nebula Barnard 68.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Ukraine, rather than trying to position itself as a bridge between West and East, should simply try to join the West without equivocations.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a Zippy cartoon and moves on to explore the wider world from it.

[LINK] “The transformative visions of William Blake”

Christopher Rowland has a stirring essay at Open Democracy about the importance of William Blake, as a philosopher of politics and as a literary figure (if, admittedly, after his death). I wish I engaged more with him; I wish I was more like him.

William Blake (1757-1827) lived most of his life in London, with a short spell on the Sussex coast, during which he was charged with sedition because of what he said to a soldier and for which he was put on trial. His life spanned the turbulent years that saw the independence of the American colonies and the French Revolution, both of which inform his prophetic understanding of history.

Blake’s two prophecies, America and Europe, were ‘prophetic’ not because Blake sought to predict what was going on—indeed they were written following these events. Rather, he sought to plumb the depths of the historical and social dynamics which were at work in them. He was part of a tradition of radical non-conformity in English religion, with different ways of reading the Bible.

In many ways Blake is an obvious choice of someone whose life’s work was to link ‘the personal and the political,’ but his work for justice and equality in the world was less through political activism or a practice which seeks to bring about societal transformation, and more about the intellectual task of changing hearts and minds. His Descriptive Catalogue of 1809 indicates that he wanted to make a pitch for a role as a public artist. But his exhibition met with the derision of the only reviewer of the exhibition (Robert Hunt), who disdainfully dismissed it as a “farrago of nonsense … the wild effusions of a distempered brain,” and Blake as “an unfortunate lunatic.”

This initiative on Blake’s part not only shows his sense of vocation but also the difficulties which attended the reception of his work. His illuminated books are as challenging today for the reader or viewer as they were when they were first published, and there will be many who continue to react like Hunt. But this complexity only underlines the difficulty of the interpretative tasks Blake undertook as he explored relationships to the past, and the cul-de-sacs which can so easily attend the journey of personal and political transformation.

Throughout his work he remained committed to the following task as expressed in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.” Arguably, all of Blake’s works are designed to facilitate the process of change in the individual and in society. Transformation is key to everything he undertook.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 27, 2015 at 10:54 pm