Offline: A commentary by Harold Ackerman


I have just been reading “Things Unflattened by Science.”  I am in the presence of someone thinking originally and seriously.  There is too little of this outside of books.  There is plenty of selling and shouting and sharing and denying. There is Facebook.  There is CNN.  There are White House Press briefings and Senate hearings.  There is precious little of individuals, online, quietly trying to puzzle out answers to who we are and what we have become.  Or willing to admit what they don’t know.  Offline, Lewis Thomas will tell us that we are complex, beautiful beings, but that we are not at all special.  The way he tells it, I do not feel at all admonished.  I am not admonished but delighted to learn, for example, that bees probably can think (either alone or together), or if not, the evidence is clear that they can anticipate the next step of a bee scientist’s experiment upon them.  This essay about things unflattened by science appears in Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (Viking 1983).  OK, you will say, “This is too old, and probably too namby pamby.”  You will say, “This comes from before widespread use of computers.”  Fair enough.  Find something else offline.  I could name to you David J. Thompson’s Grace Takes Me, poems and photographs (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press 2018).  Let’s get off Twitter for a week.  Figure some things out.

Quite unrelated to any of this, I’ve just discovered the work of the photographer Mike Disfarmer.  I’m pointing it out to just about everyone I correspond with.  Maybe you already have found it.

Harold Ackerman has photo art most recently at gravel magazine and has poetry forthcoming in Minnie’s Diary.  He is trying to imagine a science fiction poem about the absence of color.  If you get it first, let him know at He has photo art forthcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal and poems forthcoming next month in The Blue Nib.

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