He’s just filed a record of invention – predecessor to prototyping, forerunner to any possible patent – for a tremendously cool device that would provide energy efficiently and at practically no cost – if it works.
All this he sketched on a scrap of paper for my wondering eyes and made perfectly plain sense of for my fascinated-by-physics-but-not-entirely-savvy-to-it ears.
And of course I’d like to tell you all about it, but seeing how they still need to ramp up a prototype (at the Department of Energy’s expense) that would probably be breaching a trust and the what of it isn’t important anyway, is it?
What’s important is that people think these things up. Manufacture them out of nothing more than grey cells and coffee gone cold and the pure night air. (And oh, right, government funding.)
Wandering around Rodin’s bronze folk at Stanford the other night I got to wondering the thing I wonder a lot whenever I’m moved by a masterful artist’s art: Why do I need this? And why did you, my friend the artist, feel compelled to create it? To drop everything else and just do this? For me. For all of us.
The courage of that astonishes me. I have such a compulsion to be useful – even the way I make my livelihood grew out of that compulsion – much as I love it, it was more or less accidental. I saw an opportunity to do something, something that I did reasonably well, something that other people found to be of use, something they’d pay me to do so that I could eat.
And I like to eat. So I kept on doing it.
But to quit everything else and only create things because they’re beautiful?
M’s sketch last night – the invention – the whole thing was about harnessing energy. Spinning coils and magnetic fields and laser beams – all to harness this one thing and put it to beautiful use. Born of pure imagination, it may well find a useful end. But only because he dreamed the beautiful thing into being. Only because he allowed it to be.
Beauty is its own excuse for being. — Emerson