I like eternity in math. There it works. In praxis, the idea of living eternally, for instance, the topic of installment number 4 of Controversy, only works in conjunction with cultural systems. And ethics is one of them, a system, that is, as was also adamantly pointed out by the first woman on the show. Whether it is morally defensible to prolong life, when there is little point to it anyway, or create artificial life that no one knows where it's going, has little to do with science, and more to do with what people learn is an appropriate stance towards questions that measure their ethical standards rather than their eternal swing. 'Do we want to live forever, if we could', is thus a question that springs mainly from the narratives that we entertain about ourselves, and has no bearing on what science can do. In principle, science gets us where we want to go, but prevents us from understanding the implication of infinite 'going'.

The beginning of the show revolved, in fact, around the idea of going, as in 'nobody gets out of here alive,' and there seemed to be some consensus on the necessity to keep both the carpe diem philosophy and the memento mori philosophy in balance. The go between 'live now and die tomorrow' thus has to be initiated in the idea that both the living and the dying have to be meaningful. Of course, while we can quickly establish that something meaningful has to happen to our short and pitiful lives, there is hardly any consensus on what the meaningful should consist of. Which, perhaps, is also the reason why the idea of filling your life-container with meaningful experiences was left in the air.

Towards the end of the show, it was clear that opinions were divided on the question of the extent to which science can provide an answer for what we think of life, love, and death. The woman, a writer of scientific journalism, went with biology, and consequently claimed that the approach to questions about life through religion or morality is wrong: “In science, I don't need to know why love exists,” she said, and when her suggestion was met with the statement, “then science is boring,” articulated by the musician on the show—the other two men present were a physics professor and an editor-in-chief of a Danish newspaper—she retorted: “you should try doing some science yourself,” thus implying that there may be more mysteries right under your nose, while going through a microscope, than in love. At this point Vincent cut the show short with the words, “this is Controversy, see you next week” and everyone was left to feel “it” in the air.

Perhaps Vincent had enough of all this love talk, after he tried himself the various love balconies and love banners at Aros (the museum where the show was shot), making visual statements to all and no one, and testing the air. Or it may be that the abrupt interruption was meant to suggest that if there is anything left in the air, then it is precisely, and always love. There must be a reason why they made songs about it, love and air, that is. Now, there is a scientific topic that one can investigate. And people have done it already, only, for some reason those who know what to say about such seemingly disparate subjects never show up on TV. But here's a take on it: the absence of eternal life sharpens our scientific mind, but the presence of love in life, strengthens the rational mind. Thus a sharp mind knows that you get out of it what you put in it, but a strong mind knows that giving is more powerful than getting. In these equations, if something still hovers in the air, then it is finding a potential cure to all things, love and death alike: As with Henry David Thoreau: “There is no remedy for love but to love more.” The same can be said of dying. We leave eternity to math, and those who get it.


Popular Posts