Favourite Quote: from an interview with scientist Paul Davies in “Devout Sceptics”

” The older I get, the more I find that I am returning to those deep questions, and asking ‘Why?’ I don’t think it’s enough to shrug this question aside. My scientific colleagues will often say, ‘Scientists shouldn’t ask “why?’ questions’. Well, that response reminds me of my school days: ‘Sit down, Davies, and shut up!’ I’m afraid I’m not going to sit down, and I’m not going to shut up. I’m going to go on asking these ‘why?’ questions. We do want to know why the world is as it is. Why did it come to exist 13.7 billion years ago in a Big Bang? Why are the laws of electromagnetism and gravitation as they are? Why those laws? What are we doing here? And, in particular, how come we are able to understand the world? Why is it that we’re equipped with intellects that can unpick all this wonderful cosmic order and make sense of it? It’s truly astonishing.”(from a 2002 conversation)

The Big Why ?
The Big Why ?

from – (p57) – Devout Sceptics conversations on faith and doubt with Bel Mooney (2004) If you are preoccupied – as I always have been – with The Big Why?, and find it intriguing and stimulating to browse the musings of other people regarding how we got here, why we are here, and what is the point of it all, then the above book is definitely for you. Mooney’s edited transcripts from the popular BBC Radio 4 series, Devout Sceptics, feature well-known people as diverse as authors Phillip Pullman, Joanna Trollope and Jeanette Winterson, broadcasters Kate Adie and John Humphries, scientists James Lovelock and Paul Davies: 20 in all. These interviews will make you think. Do check this book out.

Author review: never say never!

Joanna Trollope “The Rector’s Wife, “A Spanish Lover”, “ Second Honeymoon”  etc

For years I  passed over the highly popular novels of consistently best-selling author Joanna Trollope, going along with the patronising view that she was the writer of ‘Aga-sagas’– ie novels about certain types of rather well-heeled, well-educated and privileged middle-class English people – and as such, was better avoided. However, in recent years shades of grey grew more apparent in the surveying of life’s rich tapestry as I became inexorably middle-aged. This archetypal process (which will be only too familiar to many readers!) was fortuitously accompanied by a slow dissolving of many of my prejudices – often because it took up too much energy to hold onto them any longer, rather than for any more evolved reason!

Thus, on a visit one afternoon to our excellent local Oxfam bookstore in Byres Road, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, unable to find a more appealing novel to feed my addiction (I get jittery if I don’t have at least two novels stacked up in advance) I bought Trollope’s “The Rector’s Wife.” Might as well give Trollope a go, I thought to myself. Eight of her books later, hunting them out now in my favourite second hand book haunts, I am a convert….

Over this summer, I have read “Marrying the Mistress”, which was excellent, as well as  “Brothers and Sisters” which explores the familial consequences of non-related adopted siblings jointly seeking their origins. Trollope is a fine, gripping, economical writer with a wryly humorous, nuanced grasp of the multi-layered joys, sorrows and dilemmas of the human condition. I have just finished reading “Second Honeymoon”, another classic of observation and reflection on the harvests and the blights of loving, and the compromises we must make amidst the muddle, delight and mess of everyday life.

It doesn’t bother me any more that she does indeed tend to write about a particular group of people. Strip away the trappings of material comfort, culture, race, or creed  – we are all the same underneath.

350 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page