Violins are spiraling darkly from a corner of the room. It is late July and the smell of summertime is so thick in our senses that the cold seems a forgotten relative, or maybe the “sponsored child” in some third-world country; one whose face you’ve seen and whose letters you’ve received but whose life recedes to the edge of your awareness until it’s time to send a new check. Months go by, more checks are sent, and the winter crawls past on shaggy bear-limbs until we decide we can’t keep ignoring it.
Here, though, heat settles like a sponge on my neck: I am in a sidewalk cafe in the East Village or maybe Prague, reminded of place by scent of cedar coffee, the sharp bite of orange peels. A notebook is suddenly no home for this feeling boiling inside of me, this unending need to bring some creation, some newness, to the world. All of us are living the embodiment of our thoughts, piled up like a dusty catalogue of desires and hope; even as you read this, we are going through the motions of an existence, sometimes oblivious to the reality we’re creating.
Arthur C. Clarke, one of the pioneering minds of science fiction and a significant scientist and inventor, passed away at the age of 90 today. Many of his words have served me in my deepest inspirations over the years, and his startlingly prescient novels somehow become more relevant with time. From 2001 to Childhood’s End to (my favorite) The Light of Other Days (coauthored with Stephen Baxter), Clarke’s stories entangled Eastern thought with a Science both powerful and savagely human; his characters, flawed and often unaware of the significance of their actions, confronted awe-inspiring and immeasurable ethical, spiritual, and moral challenges with ingenuity, maturity, and of course, incredible new technologies that, more often than not, caused more problems than they solved. Ultimately mankind, at least in Clarke’s mind, would always rise to the occasion… even if it meant growing up a little.
Rest in peace, Arthur. We owe our future to you.