I was back in Letchworth, my family home, this weekend. Lacking anything interesting to do I took a long walk. Starting at 7.30 I finished at 9.30 in the dark. It was terribly relaxing and I stopped every so often to continue reading Wasting Police Time (which I'll review this evening hopefully).
The phone camera dealt pretty well with the low light which is impressive. My phone is a Nokia N73 and I'm pretty pleased with it so far. It doesn't have the irritating little failures of design or reliability that have plagued every Sony Ericsson or Motorola phone I've used. The camera has the same resolution as my aging digital camera and is more than good enough for my purposes. This is the first time I've actually experienced convergence and not having to worry about bringing a camera with me is pleasant. The only alternative course of action I was really considering was getting a music phone but as the need for an MP3 player is more predictable (I don't just see things and think "I want to listen to that now") a music phone wouldn't add much value.
Here's a picture in good light which better demonstrates the camera's ability. Its subject is the new installation in the Royal Society courtyard:
I quite like the reliance of the installation on its surroundings. Alone it would just look like an Imperial War Museum mock-up of Stalingrad. In the distinctly eternal surroundings of the Royal Society courtyard it becomes a lot more interesting. It highlights just how remarkable the security and peace of the Royal Society is. This suggests to me the conservative message that the stability and civility of our society is rare and special. We should be careful of change that might, inadvertently or otherwise, endanger that achievement. I'm sure the artist himself is a dreadful socialist but undermining paradigms by interpreting art in a right-wing manner is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a thoughtful conservative.
Anyway, this post does actually have a point. Something about self-indulgent bloggers writing about their uninteresting personal lives. As I'm guilty of self-promotion I only need to become a little more self-centred and I'll have the full set.
No. The point is that in urbanised societies many do not regularly visit even semi-rural, suburban areas like Letchworth and its surroundings. There has long been a contention that cutting yourself off from the natural world in this way is a bad idea. That the human experience is inextricably linked to elements of the natural world and cutting ourselves off from them is psychologically risky. I've always been a bit dubious of this logic as it sounds like the kind of vaguely hippyish analysis that lacks data and is used as an excuse for other problems such as family breakdown. Humans, after all, adapt pretty well to new circumstances and the British countryside of today is little like the countryside we evolved in. Little chance of being eaten by a wolf for a start.
However, whenever I actually take the time to take a long walk among trees and fields it does relax me in a way the city rarely can. I think that the countryside provides perspective. In the city everyone is rushing around attending to their own obsessions. By contrast, disinterested Nature possesses an infectious calm. This view is close to the opposite of the Gaia thesis which seeks to anthropomorphize nature and turn it into one more concerned consciousness. Perhaps I'm safe from hippy status after all.
This understanding of nature's importance is my explanation for why my favourite artist is Salvator Rosa (the logo at the top-right of this blog is text superimposed on a painting of his). They aren't pure landscapes which relegate humans to being 'behind the camera'. Instead the landscapes loom over the protagonists. The background constantly draws the eye from the foreground to scenes of powerful but uncaring nature. This sends an almost Stoic message, Rosa thought of himself as a part of that school although his personal conduct was deeply unStoic, about the shallowness of our manias.