Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dot Product: The Cross Between Particle Theory and Pointillism

File:A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884.jpg

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884; image credit: Public Domain

Dot Product: The Cross Between Particle Theory and Pointillism 
(originally published in the 2011 issue of Paper Nautilus)

Up close, everything is made up
of elementary particles, tiny dots.

They vibrate, shimmer, dance
Maybe because they’re agitated,
maybe because they’re excited,

it doesn’t matter.
                  The countless tiny particles
that makes us and fill us
are moving, always moving,
even if just a quiver.

At a distance, anything
of any shape
will look like a dot, a mere point.

An insignificant dot risks
being missed

unless it is named.
And so those who explicate
have given a name—point particles—
to the near nothingness
of our elementary dancing dots.

And the explicators say
those point particles at the root of everything—
idealized—they have no structure,
have no mass.
They take up no space.
Up close
then, perhaps nothing
can look like a dot
because there is no
thing to see.
And yet—
here we are. We, who are made of quivering particles,
we have mass.
We take up space.

At a distance, a huddle of dots                                   
will take shape, will take color.

Take pointillism: a technique of painting
that uses countless numbers
of colored dots, distinct and unblended dots
all on the flat plane of a raw canvas.
Point after point of pure and different color.

                                    When viewed from afar,
the dots will be marshaled into solid shapes
by the mind:
perhaps into the shape of a proper parasol
held by a woman,
a bustled woman,
prim and detached,
a monkey at her feet,
a romping dog by her side.
In the distance, a boat at full sail,
white and billowy.

And those dots, perhaps a division
of blues, purples, oranges, and yellows,
will converge and blend into some other color—
let’s imagine into the fragrant green of a grassy field.

Form and color, forged
from the smallest dots with no structure.

At a distance, God is a pointillist painter
and time a ready canvas.

At a distance, the universe is a painting in some art gallery
            and evolution a paint-by-point particles adventure.

At a distance, humanity is a palette of constrained color
            and I am one dot, dancing wildly.

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