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Chaos of Delight Episode 5


Charles Darwin wrote wonderful sentences, beautiful books and fabulous phrases and one of my favourite is when he describes his mind being a ‘Chaos of Delight’ after seeing many of the splendid lifeforms in a Brazilian forest.  And we have asked everyone who’s been involved in this App when they experience that ‘Chaos of Delight.’ – Robin Ince

I think sometimes you have to really take yourself out of what you think learning is to get back to wanting to learn about things.


A chaos of delight is a beautiful phrase and I’ve actually had a sort of experience recently where I found myself…because a few years ago I wrote a radio show called ‘All the Planets Wonders Shown in Detail’ which you can find on YouTube for free, um, and it was sort of about the fact that I’ve always really had a love of learning and I got this real excitement about trying to emulate people of the enlightenment, like, attacking everything knowledge-wise and stuff and I’ve always been really interested in learning and stuff like that and quite recently I just felt exhausted and blasé and beaten down and like, ‘I know there’s lots of stuff but I’m over it.  I’m over everything.’  

And so it’s been really hard trying to come out of that and get back into a state of wonder, I suppose, of delight and of wanting to engage and stuff.   And bizarrely, like, what brought me back into it was – I don’t know how useful or helpful this is, this is quite silly – but I was talking to someone about snails in their garden and they said, ‘They come back’.  And I said, ‘You should do what my mum did, which was fling them over the side of the garden’ and he looked at me like, ‘You fool’ and he was like, ‘They come back you know.  I know.’  And I was like, ‘How do you know?’ and he said ‘I got my children to mark the snails and those same snails were back in the garden’.  And I was like, firstly, that is a brilliant experiment to do as a child.  And, secondly, I got this idea from that, that it would be amazing to put tiny paintings onto the shells of snails and send them off out into the world.  And for a second I was just utterly delighted by that idea, as an artistic idea, I was like, ‘That.  Is.  Great.  That is me.’  

And then obviously I thought, no, because those snails will be eaten by birds straight away because the bird will be like, ‘Oh I see that clearly’.  Bang!  Dead.  

But that’s what sort of woke me up again when I thought, oh, I really want to do that and try that and experiment with that.  I don’t know, that’s not really a scientific thing.  But I should say that you saying that phrase that Darwin said, a chaos of delight, that is exactly my favourite feeling to have when I’m finding out new things.  It’s how I felt when I came back to astronomy a few years ago, you know, going to a planetarium and just feeling overwhelmed and delighted and sickened and fascinated and small and I…you know, that’s really great.

I’ve recently realised that, to kind of get over the feeling that I didn’t want to learn anything else, I’ve been having a lot of intense physical experiences like cold swimming: swimming in rivers, swimming in lakes, things like that.  And I was thinking about it a lot and I’ve actually felt, like, that is me taking a very basic interest in the natural world.  That is me going, ‘I want to be a part of it and find out more about it’.  And that is my starting point for going and finding out more about rocks and plants and rivers and things like that.

So I think sometimes you have to really take yourself out of what you think learning is to get back to wanting to learn about things.