I did this simple piece of art yesterday as I was told to summarise Catching Infinity into 10 words. I took out my colouring pencils and a paintbrush and did this instead.
As a scientist, I know that we are just a bag of chemicals with a finite shelf-life. And then we are no more. What goes on beyond our organic matter is how we had lived our lives: how will we live on in the minds of the people who once loved us, when our bodies are long gone? That is the BIG philosophical point I made in Catching Infinity. That only love goes on.
So that is the philosophy. What about the practicality? We are still human beings who eat, shit, fuck, cry, laugh. We make dumb decisions, chasing chemical highs, be it a job, exciting lovers, faraway travels or handbags. No matter, all the same. Dopamine, dopamine, dopamine to satisfy some receptors in the complex human brain.
But it’s OK. It’s all human experience. We are here to learn and we learn from our experiences. Bur learn what?
From Catching Infinity, Chapter 5: Dreams are made of quarks
But Ouma was scared of dying, though Oupa had already gone ahead. Sometimes, in her last years, she was like a little girl and had often clung to PW’s hand whenever he came to visit and they sat on the stoep watching the unmoving veld. Time had stood still then.
“I’m scared that they will put me into the ground, and that I will be stuck there forever,” she confided to her grandson.
“You will travel again, Ouma,” he promised her. You will leave the reality of old bones, failing sight and a body that had reached the end of the road behind. You can follow my frogs to Cape Town. Or head towards Mozambique, where Hennie’s spirit roams with the lions. You can even cross oceans and go further to find the soul of your beloved husband.
He knew his grandparents held hands until Oupa died. They were lovers till the end, his Ouma and his Oupa. And PW began to wonder, who will hold his hand when his eyes are rheumy, his skin paper-thin and his body stooped, when he is no longer the hotshot Professor of Theoretical Physics at Oxford? Who will still be there, loving him, as his Ouma had loved his Oupa till the end of his days? And he knew, in a flash of insight, that love is not an emotion. It is a construction, a life-long build.
Photograph: a beautiful day in Bosham, Hampshire, summer 2016.