How Humboldt resurrected the word Cosmos

Etymologically speaking, cosmos derived from the Greek word kosmos that means order or world. But we don’t deliberately use this word to mean the holistic interactions within the universe until Alexander von Humboldt used it in his five-volume treatise Kosmos.

An obsessive note-taker, Humboldt traveled from Germany to South America to explore, observe, and record the minutia details of nature; from the ocean current in the coast of Peru, to the ruins of Inca, to the hostile Orinoco River in Venezuela where he named new species of plants and animals. Together with French botanist Aime Bonpland, they climbed one of the highest volcanoes in Equador, Mt. Chimborazo, to record changes in air pressures and temperatures, laying the foundation for future scientists to investigate the relationship between the living organisms and their habitat. He gave us a map of various vegetation zones, a color-coded map of terrain with its corresponding plants; perhaps the first of its kind, thus kick-starting the era of data visualization that we know and still widely used today.

Charles Darwin adored him, saying:

I am at present fit only to read Humboldt. He, like another sun, illuminates everything I behold.

Continue reading “How Humboldt resurrected the word Cosmos”

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Oh darkness my old friend

Apparently, melancholy was a dark fluid circling through our body. At least that was what the Greeks think. Besides melancholy, there was also joy, lethargy and sensitivity, and anger. The inherent dogma, that sadness is a hormonal imbalance in the body, persists throughout the modern age under various clinical depression names. Despite this truth, we are reluctant to admit sadness in our life, assuming it as the enemy in today’s obsession to a “fulfilling life”.

Just a few days ago, while lounging on a chic-tropical terrace of a Peruvian restaurant in the middle of Ubud, as the sunlight made its dramatic come down against the palm trees, the slow drag of sadness came unto me. Indeed there is something about afternoons that’s distinctively melancholic. I refused to look at my phone since noising out sadness gives more sadness. So as the sadness sits there in front of me, I thought, what should I do? And it occurred to me that we are never taught how to embrace sadness. Should I think, should I feel? That’s the first question. Then, should I stay silent or do something? Should I listen or should I speak? I froze on what to do. All while sadness sips black bitter tea next to me. Continue reading “Oh darkness my old friend”

The kind of creative loneliness. And, daydreaming

I had never noticed myself as an actual loner until I was in college. I had lunch by myself, organized trips to classes on my own, finished my essays in my bedroom. My best friend has always been one, or two, or three. But I rarely, so rarely ever feel alone.

I was one of those invisible students in your class. I retreated to books, my desk, or my own dreams during the short breaks. Even when in conversations with my ladies, I was usually being the slowest one because my mind was always halfway to Neptune.

Ok, let me step back a little bit. I did feel alone during my 17 years living in Jakarta, feeling slightly isolated and not understood. Rebecca Solnit built a fort with her books, a world where she allows herself to live and breathe freely. I did, too. With books, comics, movies, whatever.  Continue reading “The kind of creative loneliness. And, daydreaming”

Should we walk?

If the city is a language spoken by walkers, then a post pedestrian city not only has fallen silent but risks becoming a dead language. Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust

Should we walk? Ask no one in Jakarta, ever. The answer will be replied with a gasp, a jolt, a furious face, a standing applause of some sort as if walking is a rare activity we do. But isn’t it?

For most of my life (that is, from a baby till high school), walking is an act reserved only to those who can’t obtain a car or a motorbike. It’s savage, dirty, tiring, sweaty. To walk from my home to a nearby mini market under the sun is to waste your time while laughing at yourself really. So I practically never walked from point A to point B all the way until high school.

That is, until I went to San Francisco and spent hundreds of hours on the streets that it becomes an extension of my home.  Continue reading “Should we walk?”

Writing is walking

In Wanderlust, a book solely explores the experience and the ideas of walking, Rebecca Solnit wrote a single line of narration at the bottom of the page that goes horizontally across all pages towards the end. Unable to skim, one needs to walk with the line, one page at a time, one step at a time, towards the end; a reading done with two pairs of eyes walking along the designated path on a designated journey set up by the writer.

The writer, too, walks the path, first exploring and studying the weeds of thoughts, then trimming them down into a beautiful concrete pathway to welcome the readers. Along the process are a stumble, a balancing, and an act of mediating and meditating with the body, the mind, and the Earth.

“Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.”

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