Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman

This is my first foray into an Alan Lightman book.  I’ve seen others come down the pikeSearching for Stars (Screening Room comes to mind fairly recently) but haven’t made the commitment, until this one, which appeared interesting and was reasonably short.

Lightman asks the big questions in this collection of essays that ponder the universe from its far reaches to sub-atomic territory, the minutiae of nature, and how spirituality and science contradict and complement each other.

We start out with a sliver of an essay about the Font-de-Gaume cave in France and Lightman’s impressions of the people from 17,000 B.C. who created the paintings there.  From there Lightman shares his thoughts on the vastness of the universe during an epiphany while on his back in a boat.

These are the mere beginnings.  As you read along, your excursion will take you into Buddhism, early Christian writers, quantum physics, and the possibilities of multiverses.  Lightman, who doesn’t necessarily profess a belief, still feels a need for spirituality within the scientific world, and is glad to include both Saint Augustine and Albert Einstein as persons worthy of discussion.

Not all of the essays are easy reads.  Some are short and quick; the first one about the Font-de-Gaume cave is over in a few minutes, a small gulp of prose.  Other more lengthy entries require a definite focus, and certain concepts that the author brings up were beyond my knowledge.  The pluses?  Lightman writes accessably and the book gets you thinking about things beyond the mundane.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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