Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pat Spain's Memoir on Charles Fort

Charles Fort and Pat Spain
My Great Uncle Charles Fort
By Pat Spain

It's interesting. I didn't know Charles Fort was my relative until long after I had developed a love for the unknown and for science in general. It's almost like it was in my DNA.

My parents tell stories about me collecting bees while I was still in diapers despite getting stung over and over, or bringing me to the New England Aquarium and having to physically move me from exhibit to exhibit because I would stand at one all day. Once I discovered Fort was my great uncle, I wanted to know everything about him. I re-read his works (having read bits of them before this revelation) and found I was most impressed with his sense of awe for the world; he marveled at the mysteries of it and encouraged everyone to do the same. Fort never let ridicule or concern about what others would think stand in the way of something that he loved.

Jim Steinmeyer, Fort's biographer, summed up my feelings on Fort and my hopes to continue his legacy incredibly well in a letter to me a year ago: "There's always a place for us to be intrigued, mystified, and fascinated by the world that surrounds us. It's a genuine emotion that deserves to be celebrated. It can be done responsibly, and scientifically, and with a real sense of fun. It's something that Fort did, with his limited education and experience, and I hope that you're able to continue that tradition, in your own way and with your own expertise." I try to live up to that on every shoot.

Einstein said, "The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."

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