Have you ever toured the south of France?
Would you like to visit with a visionary artist, Alexander Wainwright?
After meeting Clea by chance that night in Paris, he is on his way to St. Maxime to visit his patron Jonathan Pryde, who has retained him to create stained glass
windows for his residence in Vence in the south of France.
At Pryde’s castle-like residence, he is surprised to meet many elderly people who are being cared for. This home is dedicated to the care of famous artists, writers, musicians, scientists and intellectuals.
But why do they insist they are free to leave at any time?
Come along! Alexander has just arrived and is about to meet Arthur Bollen, retired Professor of Physics from Caltech. Alex is delighted to hear the physicist say, “how can one stare into nature and not experience some feeling of the beyond. Alex replies, “I mean, I’ve always felt that there must be a strange and mysterious order to the universe.”
The Fate of Pryde [Chapter 11] A lesson in physics from an elegant crystal glass.
As Alex approached, the light of a massive chandelier was switched on in a large glassed in portion of the building. As he climbed up the hill, he thought it might be an indoor swimming pool or a conservatory. Leaded windows were thrown open. From within came piano music. Whoever was playing was blessed with much energy and skill. A Chopin Mazurka raced forth from what must surely be a wonderful grand piano. Who could be playing?
Alex found a door and entered the room about forty feet long. With its various groupings of chesterfields, chairs and tables, it looked like the lobby of a grand hotel. At the far end, was the grand piano. Alex could just make out the top of a man’s head.
Alexander walked the length of the conservatory. “Good evening, sir. I was entranced by your playing. You have such skill and energy.”
The man stopped and looked up at Alex with alarm in his great bulbous eyes. His expression was that of a skeptic, who was puzzled by the meaning of the world around him. His old-fashioned necktie dangled from his collar. He wore a vest with hisainwright.” Alex shook the man’s hand. shirt sleeve.
“I am Arthur J. Bollen.”
“You do play beautifully. Will you play some more?”
Bollen winked. “How about something different. How about some Ragtime. Maybe The Maple Leaf Rag…Scott Joplin?”
Bollen rolled up his sleeves farther. His steel gray eyes suddenly twinkled. He played the tune with such energy and sense of fun, that Alex clapped his hands and laughed in delight. When the man finished, Alex clapped again and called out.
Arthur J. Bollen rose from the piano bench and performed a mock bow. “Are you the Alexander Wainwright, winner of the Turner Prize.”
Alexander nodded and murmured modestly. The man sat in the chair next to him.
“You are a very talented artist. You paint with such numinous light. It’s a real gift to see the world as you do.”
Alexander smiled. “And what do you do, Arthur?”
“It’s what I used to do. I was a physicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California. I was part of the Beowulf Project.”
The physicist chuckled. “Not the Anglo-Saxon poem. It’s a computer program used to study the chaotic dynamics of small black holes spiraling into super-massive black holes in hopes of understanding gravity wave signals.” He extracted a cigar from a vest pocket and lit it. “But you could say I’m retired now…” His voice trailed off vaguely.
Alex sat in wonder. “I’ve always hoped, Arthur, that science would discover how things really work. Otherwise, we can only rely upon our intuition.”
Arthur gave a chuckle. “We do try.”
“I mean, I’ve always felt that there must be a strange and mysterious order to the universe.”
Bollen smiled grandly and motioned with his cigar. “You are definitely right about that, my friend. We only know the composition of approximately four or five percent of the universe. So, we have our work cut out for us. But it is your intelligent curiosity, which physicists share, that will propel us onward.”
The two men fell silent, each engaged in his own thoughts.
“Say, Alexander, are you a permanent resident? I do hope so, because we could have some fascinating conversations.”
“Permanent resident. What do you mean? I’m just a weekend guest. Mr. Pryde invited me here to discuss my creating some stained glass for him.”
Disappointment fell across Bollen’s face. “Oh, I see. My mistake.” He shrugged and said to no one in particular. “Of course, all of us are free to leave at any time.”
Alexander frowned deeply but said nothing.
“By the way, Alexander, would you care for a drink?”
“I’m not much of a drinker, but I guess a vodka and orange juice would be fine.”
Bollen reached for a button on the table. Within moments, a waiter appeared, and he ordered two vodka and orange.
“Tell me more about your perceptions, Alex. They are evidenced in your work.”
Alexander paused thoughtfully. “I think we’re very limited in our perceptions and can only perceive the surface of things. But every day, I sense that something lies underneath or beyond our daily world. I like to think that there is a mysterious order to the universe which we can only find through intuition—and only in fleeting glimpses. I don’t know if science holds any answers.”
“Thank God, you’re not one of these people who thinks physics can either prove or disprove religion or a spiritual sense.”
Alexander smiled sadly. “No, but I hope that your field of study will eventually reveal some secrets for us.”
The waiter returned and served the drinks.
Bollen grew serious. “The rational and irrational are at war within me, my friend. Many physicists feel as I do. We are committed to the scientific method, but many of us have a mystical sense. After all, how can one stare into nature and not experience some feeling of the beyond. We muddle about with our mathematical formulae, our geometry and our carefully constructed experiments—and yet, we cannot escape the feeling that we can never really penetrate to the core of anything.”
Bollen picked up a delicate, crystal glasses. ‘I like to think,” he said, “that the universe is like one immense crystal—actually one with no beginning or end. When we turn the crystal…” With a look of awe, Bollen turned the stem very slowly between his fingers. “We see hundreds of tiny reflected pictures. But any sane person must agree that there is still only one crystal. And yet we are absolutely convinced that the one is the many. In brief, the duality, the multiplicity is an illusion borne of our inadequate senses.”
“Beautifully and eloquently put, Arthur.” Alex took a long drink from his glass. “Logical thought can take us only so far before it leaves us in the lurch.”
“So very true!” Admiringly, Arthur turned the glass once more. “But there is a fatal error in my example. My eyes…your eyes are outside, separate and apart from the crystal or, so it seems. But actually, we are right inside the crystal. Any physicist will tell you that the act of our observing something may actually affect the object—the crystal.” With a reflective smile, the physicist set the crystal glass back on the tray.
Alex sat in contemplative silence. Suddenly the door from the terrace banged open. Two men in tennis whites marched in laughing. Alex looked once and then twice. They seemed to be twins. At least he could not determine the slightest difference between them. They passed through the far end of the room and entered the lobby from where their voices could still be heard.
“Amusing!” declared Bollen. “Just as we were discussing the problem of duality and multiplicity, we are presented with an example.”
“Quite so,” remarked Alexander, setting his drink down. He was beginning to feel slightly woozy. “I gather that there are a number of permanent residents here?” he asked.
Bollen appeared flustered. “Oh yes. Mr. Pryde is the kindest of men. He has looked after many of us in difficult times.”
“These people live here?”
“Take me, for example. I’ve been here almost five years…” Seemingly abstracted, his voice trailed off.
“Really?” Alexander wondered how far he should probe, but he decided he should find out as much as he could about his patron. “What circumstances brought you here—if you don’t mind my asking.”
Bollen shrugged. “It’s a well-known story. I had some sort of a collapse at Caltech—overwork most likely—and was about to lose my job…my career. Jonathan Pryde brought me here and has provided me with everything I need…beautiful surroundings, wonderful food and drink…books for research…internet access and a quiet place to write.”
“You’re a writer then?”
“In a manner of speaking. You see, I’m working on a series of essays which aim to link the scientific to the mystical.” Arthur Bollen hesitated but then sat forward in his chair and spoke with great intensity.
“I had a very dear friend named Russell—another physicist. Six years ago, we traveled to Greece and visited the Oracle at Delphi.
On the tour, we made our way up to the foot of the Oracle where Russell, who was a bit under the weather, decided to rest. Our group proceeded further up to the Amphitheatre at the top, leaving Russell behind.” Bollen became thoughtful. “It was very strange. When we returned, Russell was still seated at the foot of the Oracle but in an almost catatonic state. He had the strangest expression on his face—something either ecstasy or horror—I wasn’t sure which. All the way back to the hotel, he refused to speak to any of us. His ear seemed to be tuned to something else and so I doubt that he even heard us.”
The waiter approached at a considerable pace. “Dr. Bollen? So sorry to interrupt, but there is a telephone call for you. You can take it in the lobby, if you wish.”
Bollen frowned. “But who would be calling? So, few people know I’m here.” With his face darkening, he rose swiftly. “So sorry, Alexander. I’ll return just as soon as I can.” He rushed after the waiter.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing.
Coming soon! This trilogy has a fourth novel The Wondrous Apothecary which will be published 2019. Find out more…
When reading a Trilogy of Remembrance novel, you’re guaranteed trips in which I’ve been there or some place very similar. Of course, I claim artistic license! I want you to feel you’ve been to Venice or Paris or New York? “I love to travel myself and have done quite a bit. I have a rule that if I am going to set a scene in a place like London or Paris, New York or Venice, I must have been there myself.