“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.”
Of all the many pleasures writing offers, surely one of the most satisfying is the opportunity it gives us to plumb the depths of a subject that we find compelling and fascinating. And ideally, if we’ve done our work well, those same feelings are awakened in our readers. Through our own acts of exploration, interpretation, and distillation, readers come to share our enthusiasms, benefit from our understanding, and enlarge their worlds.
And how amazing is the “infinite variety” of themes and subjects just waiting patiently in the ether or the collective unconscious to be investigated and then called to life by a gifted writer’s heart and hand.
This rich and spicy cornucopia of themes sprang to mind when I read a Q&A interview in the New York Times with Rebecca Stott, the author of Darwin’s Ghosts, a new book that “flows easily across continents and centuries,” according to the reviewer. No small feat!
Rebecca’s fascination with Darwin dates back to her childhood experience of growing up in a creationist household where Darwin was seen as the “devil” in a frock coat. Rather than frightening Rebecca, this spurred her on. She first began exploring Darwin’s theories about the origin of species in a book called Darwin’s Barnacle. But research for that book left her with lots of unanswered questions about the creative thinkers who paved the way for the 19th century British scientist. And so, Rebecca found herself exploring yet another dimension of Darwin in her new book.
Digging deeper into the history of natural selection, the intrepid author discovered that way back in 344 B.C., Aristotle was beginning to muse upon and investigate the diversity of species. He was the first thinker we know of to gather facts and “practice empirical science.” The questions he asked would eventually lead to Darwin. What brilliantly exciting byways digging deeper can take us down. Write on!