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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Blue Glass – The Marginalian


Not lengthy after writing about the bowerbird’s enchantment in blue, I walked out of my home and gasped on the sight of what regarded like two extraordinary jewels glowing on a mattress of yellow leaves, proper there on the sidewalk — chunks of cobalt glass, a lot bigger than what a damaged bottle would yield, luminous within the low afternoon mild.

I held one as much as the solar and gasped deeper.

For millennia — since lengthy earlier than cobalt grew to become the blood diamond of the digital age, pillaged from the Earth by youngster labor for its extraordinary usefulness in storing vitality and stabilizing the conductors in each laptop computer and smartphone — cobalt glass has been answering the soul’s cry of the nice uselessness that makes life not simply livable however price residing: magnificence.

Cobalt blue is nearly as previous because the written phrase, additionally solid in Mesopotamia 4 millennia in the past. Inside 5 centuries of its invention, Egyptian pottery was making ample and dazzling use of cobalt glass. After which, after the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt on the finish of the Late Bronze Age, it immediately vanished — after 1250 BC, each cobalt and glass nearly fully disappear from the archeological file. It took greater than a millennium for it to recast its enchantment in Chinese language porcelain, slowly migrating west towards the Victorian craze for blue glass.

The thriller of its disappearance has by no means been solved — a harrowing reminder that concepts, even magnificent concepts, can fall into oblivion for epochs: simply have a look at Democritus and the atom.

And but the beginning of an thought in a thoughts — the conception of one thing inconceivable and wonderful out of the chilly clay of the odd — is among the nice miracles of existence. Wanting by the sunlit blue on a Brooklyn sidewalk, I can’t assist however consider cobalt glass a supreme emblem of human ingenuity and the blessed conspiracy of probability and selection behind all creativity: Who was it, the primary historic particular person to unearth a chunk of meteoric iron, throw it into the hearth pit to see what occurs, watch it launch a stunning silvery steel, compact that steel to the purpose of liquefaction, after which watch it bleed that loveliest of colours, cobalt blue? What elemental starvation for magnificence drove them then so as to add this unusual creation to that supreme triumph of human genius, glass?

How they too will need to have gasped when the solar first shone by it.

Cupping this blue marvel in my hand, I really feel immediately related to that nameless ancestor, related to your entire lineage of human curiosity and creativity that made so inconceivable and wonderful a factor consecrate an odd afternoon with marvel. And none of it needed to exist — not this dazzling blue, not the consciousness that dreamt it up: all of it a miracle of chemistry and probability, a fantastic cosmic gasp at these slender sunlit odds towards nothingness and everlasting evening.

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