Eureka

Sun.Star Pampanga - - OPINOIOPNINION - MAYETTE Q. TABADA

YEARS ago, when I had a prob­lem with watery eyes, the ex­am­in­ing doc­tor gave me a choice: an ex­pen­sive eye so­lu­tion or a quick ex­er­cise to rest eyes strained from star­ing too long at a com­puter screen.

I chose the ex­er­cise: roll the eyes and stare off at the dis­tance be­fore re­turn­ing to screen-gaz­ing.

This pre­scrip­tion for dry eyes was a Eureka! mo­ment I try to ex­tend to other spheres.

For in­stance, I’ve come to re­al­ize how dif­fi­cult it is to be­come empty. On my com­puter, there’s a waste­bas­ket icon that fills up with the files I want to trash. I click the icon of over­flow­ing e-trash. There’s a sound of crum­pling pa­per and Eureka! the waste­bas­ket be­comes “em p t y. ”

Not so with peo­ple. On road trips, I watch peo­ple watch­ing the road. They’re not trav­el­ing. They’re not wait­ing for any­one. But for all the seem­ing in­ac­tiv­ity, they don’t strike me as empty.

Ac­cord­ing to an on­line dic­tionary, “eureka” ex­presses the joy of dis­cov­ery. The ex­cla­ma­tion orig­i­nates from the early sev­en­teenth-cen­tury Greek word, “heureka,” for “I have found it!”

Archimedes re­port­edly ut­tered “eureka” when he dis­cov­ered a way to de­ter­mine the pu­rity of gold.

For the con­tem­po­rary per­son, I haz­ard that the value of empti­ness is more than its weight in gold. Empti­ness doesn’t re­fer here to a lack of mean­ing or pur­pose. It’s the math­e­mat­i­cal equiv­a­lent of hav­ing no mem­bers or el­e­ments inside.

Re­mem­ber walk­ing inside a room be­fore it con­tained any­thing? Imag­ine be­ing in a room so clut­tered and then Eureka! be­ing sur­rounded by noth­ing. In hu­man terms, there is no equiv­a­lent for the com­puter func­tion to in­stan­ta­neously “empty” the self.

How­ever, imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties for cre­at­ing if one could empty one­self at will. For rein­ven­tion, heal­ing, eras­ing, start­ing anew. Or just for es­cap­ing. The mo­ment one gains con­scious­ness is part of a con­tin­uum of end­less but di­min­ish­ing dis­cov­er­ies.

In a Nov. 4, 2016 ar­ti­cle in The New York Times In­ter­na­tional Edi­tion, I found one artist’s at­tempt to empty. Ed Ruscha, 78, paints “the mi­cro and the macro,” ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tor of the Gagosian Gallery in Lon­don, where 15 new works of Ruscha were dis­played.

Against paint­ings of skies and moun­tains, dust and dis­carded wood are words painted in di­min­ish­ing or­der. Ruscha uses a type­face he cre­ated: Boy Scout Util­ity Mod­ern.

For all their ran­dom­ness, the words re­sem­ble the dis­jointed parts of a mes­sage sent in­ter­mit­tently. For in­stance, the work “Si­lence With Wrin­kles” has this word se­quence: “Si­lence” is printed bold­est, fol­lowed by, in di­min­ish­ing or­der, “Room­tone,” “Whis­per,” “Com­mo­tion,” and other il­leg­i­ble words.

For the prices his works com­mand (a 1963 paint­ing com­manded $30.4 mil­lion in a Christie’s auc­tion in Novem­ber 2014), the artist lives in Los An­ge­les and drives to a cabin in the Cal­i­for­nia desert ev­ery week or so to at­tend to “‘events of plain liv­ing’— fix­ing a faucet, feed­ing a bird, wa­ter­ing a ne­glected t r ee.”

The Gagosian di­rec­tor ex­plained the philo­soph­i­cal pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of the lat­est Ruscha works as an off­shoot of ma­tu­rity: “He’s also get­ting older, so he’s start­ing to think about big­ger is­sues.”

I like bet­ter Ruscha’s ex­pla­na­tion for his desert re­treats: “I like the no-change part of the desert.”

These but­tons hit Eureka: a drip­ping faucet an­swer­ing the co­nun­drum of time, bird-feed­ing to lo­cate our place in the uni­verse, and a dy­ing tree as a med­i­ta­tion on mor­tal­ity.

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