Random Thoughts

Poetic Premises and Polemics

When Newton discovered that the mechanism behind the rainbow was water droplets forming a prism bending and diffracting the light into its spectrum of violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red, Keats the poet was very upset. He felt that the physical explanation had destroyed the poetic value of the rainbow. This tradition has been prevalent in India from the time of Gandhari. There is no one as blind as one who does not wish to see. I am all for the beauty of poetry and its allegories, similes and myths. I am amused and even charmed by the myth of Indra chasing dark Vritra through the heavens and using his Vajra obtained from the bones of the Rishi Dadhichi to strike at the heart of Vritra, causing him to bleed profusely and soak the earth with it. I am equally if not more pleased by knowing that the accumulating electrical charges on the clouds lead to burst of lightning and the moisture bearing dark clouds formed from the evaporation of water lead to condensation and rain.

There is another topic ever since the invention of fire and candles that it attracts moths which often self-immolate after circling the flame in ever constricting concentric circles. In Persian, Urdu and Hindi poetry this destroying love of the Parvana for the Shamma has penned many a poem and stands as the epitome of incomparable unrequited love. I do not wish to detract from the countless odes to Shammas and Parvanas, but the explanation is simple.

Prior to the existence of candles, such light sources for moths at night were either celestial bodies or similar light seen from an escape hole in a dark cave. Since these light sources were at a relative infinite distance, they were parallel when impinging on the moth's eye. By maintaining a fixed angle to the light source it could be used as a navigational method conducive to survival, escape or locating a mate. The candle is a near light source and its rays are not parallel. Thus navigating at an acute angle to the light source leads to ever narrowing concentric circular flight and death by immolation.

Some of you like Keats will probably offended by my having disillusioned you of your mythical poetic beliefs and premises. To compensate the lyrical poetry minded, I will attempt to indulge them in my cynical scientific version of a poem to the proverbial moth. 

Flame To Moth

O you pitiful mortal with few excuses lame,
For your instinctual insanity, others you blame,
From time immemorial we hear same claim,
Yet love and fame are not same as flame.
Seeking rational reasons for your suicide and shame,
Your likes who never knowingly to be singed, came,
Camouflage stupidity by selfless sacrifice's name
To salvage glory, from a hopeless and lost game.
All you living creatures are pathetic and same,
Craving immortality, power, riches and acclaim,
Unaware that all combustible chemicals burn,
Chance consciousness, life must take their turn.
No privileged positions exist in chemical world,
Every atom at sometime into some fire is hurled,
So stop making a saga of your tiresome death,
Just savor and cherish any remaining breath


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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