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Young and Curious and Brave by Nathan Jones

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeble contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explanations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe that our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos on which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.

These explorations required skepticism and imagination both. Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere. Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. The Cosmos is rich beyond measure – in elegant facts, in exquisite interrelationships, in the subtle machinery of awe.
— Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980)

Pale Fire by Nathan Jones

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff – and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
— Vladimir Nabokov (Pale Fire, Canto One)

Faith, Hope, Love, and Forgiveness by Nathan Jones

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.
Reinhold Niebuhr (1952)

The Definitions of What is Beautiful and Ugly // New Year Ditypchs by Nathan Jones

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In photography’s early days, photographs were expected to be idealized images. This is still the aim of most amateur photographers, for whom a beautiful photograph is a photograph of something beautiful, like a woman, a sunset. In 1915 Edward Steichen photographed a milk bottle on a tenement fire escape, an example of a quite different idea of the beautiful photograph. And since the 1920s, ambitious professionals, whose work gets into museums, have steadily drifted away from lyrical subjects, conscientiously exploring plain, tawdry, or even vapid material. In recent decades, photography has succeeded somewhat in revising, for everybody, the definitions of what is beautiful and ugly.
— Susan Sontag in "On Photography"

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For the last forty years [William Eggleston has] been “at war with the obvious,” working in a “democratic forest” where everything visible is equally viable as subject matter. Trees, dirt, signs, houses, carpet, red ceilings, naked men, old men with guns, tricycles, etc. Working in this manner, he inspired many photographers to look no further than their immediate surroundings for inspiration. Then came digital cameras, and then the internet, and then Flickr. Eggleston may have won the war with the obvious, but now the obvious is getting its revenge in the form of the millions of banal, boring, dull photographs that are being uploaded to the web everyday. We don’t need to go far to find the ‘democratic forest,’ in fact, we may never be able to escape it.
— Bryan Formhals

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No Ground for Preferring Either Opinion by Nathan Jones

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion ... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them ... he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
— John Stuart Mill