Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Dos Anos

Una palabra de espanol, un nombre, un bosque, una comida. Hay tiempos, cuando yo pienso en la isla. Y me siento, tal ves, feliz o triste. Pero yo no se que hacer.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

An Illusion

"You know, I dream about you," I told her last night.
"All the time"
How does she respond? What is she thinking? Even here I can't tell. But it doesn't matter, because we say little else, we just touch and cling to the comfort that was. Here it's ok, even it is only ok for here and for now, at least it's something. It's an imagination of a future constructed from the past. And firmly ignoring the reality of the present. Hope has no chance with the present.
"I dream about you all the time" I tell the comforting illusion, without ever realising that it isn't real.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

I am Virginia Galilei

I like science. In fact, I’d go as far as saying I love science. Yeah. I do love science. I believe in science! Science is basically awesome. But still, there are limits to my commitment. I mean I’m all for fighting for things I believe in, but…well it’s not the most important thing in the world. If I had to choose between the cause of science, and my family’s happiness say, or my sight, or my freedom… But no. I’m no hero, I’m just a person. An imperfect, selfish, short-sighted person, but hopefully my failings will never dramatically alter the course of science. In which case, in 400 years it’s unlikely that anyone will be proclaiming the international year of astronomy on the anniversary of anything I’ve done.

But there have been people in the history of this world who have changed the course of science. Galileo Galilei, who 400 hundred years ago first turned his telescope onto the heavens, was one of those people: a true hero of science. A hero not just for his discoveries, but because in the face of opposition from The Almighty Church and the holy inquisition he stuck stubbornly to the evidence. He was one of the great champions of the scientific method; Einstein called him the ‘father of science’.

So, to summarise: Science = Awesome, and Galileo = Awesome. Sounds simple enough. Except that over the past few weeks I’ve gotten to know Galileo. Not literally of course, he’s dead. The Galileo I’ve gotten to know is fictional, created by the playwright Berthold Brecht and performed by a second year physicist. So I can hardly claim to be an expert on the historical figure. But in fictionalising this character, Brecht has turned him from a hero into a person; a living, breathing human being with his own drives and passions and flaws. And suddenly I am relating to this man not as one of the greatest scientists in history but as my own father. It’s almost certain that I’m taking method acting to a peculiar extreme here, but in playing his daughter my entire perspective on Galileo Galilei has changed. Suddenly I find myself thinking ‘Wait a minute, I don’t care about the bloody human race, what about me? What am I supposed to do if my father gets arrested for heresy?’ I am selfish even in fiction it seems. But Brecht takes us back into history and makes us see this hero as a man. I see in his actions not his selfless dedication to a cause, but his need to boast, his pleasure in provoking authority and his inability to stop experimenting even when his own life was at risk. I have to remind myself that it is just a play, and his daughter is just a character, and his contribution towards science is more important than his failings as a father, but still I am bitter.

Next week the play will be performed and perhaps after that I can have my identity back. Hopefully I’ll be able to place Galileo once more on a pedestal at a comfortable distance and not have to stare through a telescope at his very human motivations and flaws. I still respect his achievements and his contributions to science. He still deserves our praise, but for me Galileo Galilei isn’t a hero anymore. He is a person, just like me. An imperfect, selfish, short-sighted person. Yet his short-comings altered the course of science.

'The Life of Galileo' by Bertolht Brecht is being performed at the Imperial College Union from the 18th to 21st March. Doors open at 7pm.