14 February, 2022

A Valentine's Day Card

Giving something meaningful each Valentine's Day has become a sort of tradition between Katherine and myself.

This year, Katherine has truly outdone herself. Her handmade card quotes Carl Sagan's Demon-Haunted World, showcasing a principle that has guided my life ever since I first became a skeptic some twenty odd years ago. It's a principle that I've held close to my being and that has been at the heart of many conversations Katherine and I have about so many different things. She writes that the balance between openness to new ideas and ruthless skepticism is a dance where each of us often switch sides in our cooperative search for truth. Alongside the quote, she has made literal pinpricks of light, referencing the lone lights in the darkness that rational thinking helps us to uncover. These represent the deep truths that lie within the deep nonsense — the very same deep truths that we slowly aim to uncover as we dig through the arguments about the problems of our time.

Upon opening the card, we see that there is yet another layer to the quote on the cover. She says that I brighten her life, implying that, at a different level, the darkness of the card itself also represents our lives, separated, and the lights we have managed to uncover are the shining moments we have made in the course of our relationship. All of this is said within the confines of a Sierpinski triangle, a fractal shape of crystalline regularity that reveals yet another layer of meaning: here, the balance is in the construction of the shape, with its open spaces throughout (literally it has an area of 0) and the numerous lights that we nevertheless uncover via the application of strict logical rules within the triangle itself. It is a saga that shows us the things we can count on even within a field where nothing can be counted on. Here, she implies, is where our love resides.

On yet another layer of interpretation, we see that the lights themselves overwhelm the structure of the sierpinski triangle. The triangle itself is drawn in a dark color that is difficult to see on the black background even with the lights turned off — once they are turned on, it becomes impossible to see the logical order belying them. Only the front of the card, written in reflective ink, remains visible to the human eye when the lights wash out the scene on the dark void itself. Yet even then it is a difficult thing to make out: you must struggle to see the path before you. Ironically, it is the brightness of the lights, not the darkness of the background, that makes this so difficult. This, again, is in reference to our relationship: so many of our brightest moments sometimes overshadow our typical moments in life, and make it that much more difficult to see the structure beneath it all when we reside day by day.

I am completely taken aback at the various layers of meaning weaved into a single card. So many of our conversations over the past years point back to many of the points made on the card itself. I am sure that, to any other person, this must look just like a black card with lights embedded within. But, to me, I see the threads of our relationship here: the discussions and presented arguments, the successes within a background of seeming impossibility, and the simple joys that overwhelm even the lowest of lows in a relationship of this magnitude.

I don't know how I can top this, but I will have to up my game next year.

See also the Puzzle Portraiture she made for me, the screen print of The Tuft of Flowers, & her drawing of Jasper and the Amiibo. You can see more of her work at KatherineHess.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment