‘Therefore Choose Life’ by George Wald

“I tell my students, with a feeling of pride that I hope they will share, that the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that make up ninety-nine per cent of our living substance were cooked in the deep interiors of earlier generations of dying stars. Gathered up from the ends of the universe, over billions of years, eventually they came to form, in part, the substance of our sun, its planets, and ourselves. Three billion years ago, life arose upon the earth. It is the only life in the solar system.” — George Wald

The Nobel Prize-winning scientist George Wald gave the 1970 Massey Lecture on CBC radio called “Therefore Choose Life,” focused on life, the universe, and our relationship to it.

Long considered one of the best lectures from a series of broadcasts that began in 1961 to provide a podium–as CBC has said–for writers, thinkers, and scholars who explore important ideas and issues of contemporary interest, the lectures are generally produced as published books after the broadcasts. Except Wald’s. He was working on the typescript when he died in 1997 and subsequently the manuscript was lost for years.

I heard a tape recording of Wald’s lecture just after it was given. It profoundly impacted my life and my view of the cosmos.  Wald’s ideas, presented in nearly poetic words, in terms non-scientists could easily understand, placed the workings of the universe before my eyes. His words haunted me since then, and it would be forty-seven years before I found them again in 2017, when they were finally published and just as relevant then (and now) as they were in the aftermath of the turbulent 1960s.

From the Publisher

“All men, everywhere, have asked the same questions: Whence we come, what kind of thing we are, and at least some intimation of what may become of us . . .”

So begins Nobel Prize–winning scientist George Wald’s 1970 Massey Lectures, now in print for the first time ever. Where did we come from, who are we, and what is to become of us — these questions have never been more urgent. Then, as now, the world is facing major political and social upheaval, from overpopulation to nuclear warfare to environmental degradation and the uses and abuses of technology. Using scientific fact as metaphor, Wald meditates on our place, and role, on Earth and in the universe. He urges us to therefore choose life — to invest in our capabilities as human beings, to heed the warnings of our own self-destruction, and above all to honour our humanity.

I hope thousands of people will find this book and, for a mere $9.99 on Kindle, see the “big picture” and their part in it.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel “The Sun Singer” is available free on Kindle September 14 through September 18. But for goodness’ sakes, read “Therefore Choose Life” first.

It’s convenient, isn’t it, to believe in 2015?

“The idea that time is an illusion is an old one, predating any Times Square ball drop or champagne celebrations. It reaches back to the days of Heraclitus and Parmenides, pre-Socratic thinkers who are staples of introductory philosophy courses. Heraclitus argued that the primary feature of the universe is that it is always changing. Parmenides, foreshadowing Einstein, countered by suggesting that there was no such thing as change. Put into modern language, Parmenides believed the universe is the set of all moments at once. The entire history of the universe simply is.”

– Smithsonian in “What Does ‘Happy New Year’ Really Mean?

newyearclockIt remains fashionable to kiss somebody, have a drink and say “Happy New Year” wherever (and possibly whenever) we may be when midnight occurs in our time zone.

We don’t concerns ourselves unless we’re really drunk or excessively sober and alone at that magic moment that people in some parts on the word said “Happy New Year” hours ago or that other people have yet to say it.

As a writer of fantasy and magical realism, I believe it’s my duty to say yes, Mr. Einstein, time does not exist. The appearance of time is convenient. But beyond that appearance everything is simply now.

So, you see that as long as I claim time is an illusion, I don’t have to get drunk at midnight on New Year’s Eve or, worse yet, look at all the things I didn’t get around to this “past” year and resolve with much fanfare to do them “this coming” year.

I realize that one can use the “time is an illusion” philosophy as an excuse for variously not planning ahead or for forgetting the “past,” much less showing up anywhere on time. Likewise, one doesn’t have to believe that time flies, that the “past” is over and done with or that there’s any reason to plan for the “future.”

Whichever side of the time debate we choose, we’ll always have all the rationalizations we need for doing whatever we like. That’s the beauty of these questions. They remain cryptic and mysterious and (possibly) filled with doubletalk. Maybe we really are, as the movie said, going back to the future. Maybe people who are said to be living in the past really are very forward-looking folks. Nonetheless, the “eternal now” remains illusive.

That said, best wishes for a Happy New Year even though such a thing might already be past history.


Kindle Version
Kindle Version

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels and paranormal short stories which may or may not exist in your time zone depending your belief system.

Whispers of Forever

We are immortal, and do not forget;
We are eternal; and to us the past
Is, as the future, present.
— Lord Byron, in “Manfred”

When one of the seven spirits makes this comment to Manfred in Byron’s dramatic poem composed in 1817, Manfred replies “Ye mock me.”

While most people are not tortured by unexplained guilt to the point of calling spirits (supernatural rather than liquid) to help them forget, I wonder if they believe in an eternal now. Looking at immortality, we can say that which we see confirms it or denies it.

I see it confirmed everywhere I look, from nature to myths to science to intuition. Perhaps I’m a “glass is half full” rather than a “glass is half empty person.” If I have a bias in my writing, it’s in favor of forever. In “The Sun Singer” and “Garden of Heaven,” the eternal now is a constant whisper deep within these adventures.

While earth ties us down to the concepts of space and time, the eternal now presupposes no time and no space. Seeing this possibility beyond the illusion of physical reality is, I think, part of the human quest. Fortunately, in writing fiction, I do not have to prove that immortality is real or even that it’s real for those who think it’s real. My imagination is my guide, so I am content to whisper about the probabilities on the pathways my characters are walking.

My challenge as a writer is casting a strong enough spell with my words to keep the listener from saying “ye mock me” when he hears my characters whispering about forever. I don’t expect to change minds, for I am a storyteller with entertaining yarns. However, when a reader considers that there truly is something else on the other side of the illusion, I am well pleased.


Available in multiple e-book formats

The Ever-Present Lure of Childhood

When we’re children, we’re often in a hurry to grow up. To our young eyes, adulthood as a time of unlimited freedom.

Later, we look back to our childhood, real or imagined, and wish for those carefree days again.

I explore this theme, among others, in my novel “Garden of Heaven.” One of my favourite poets, though not well known these days, St.-John Perse, also explores this theme in “To Celebrate a Childhood,” a poem found in Éloges and Other Poems.

He asks, as I do, “Sinon l’enfance, qu’y avait-il alors qu’il n’y a plus?” (“Other than childhood, what was there in those days that is not here today?”)

Perse is not, I think, seeking a list of dates, events, inventions, names of kings and presidents. so much as the sense of things and the feeling of things. Childhood, as we look back on it, is a state of mind, perhaps more real in our memory of it, than it was when we first lived it.

In “Fern Hill,” Dylan Thomas suggests that we should celebrate childhood in all all its innocence before we grow old and follow the sun out of grace. Looking back, the poet writes, “Time let me hail and climb, golden in the heydays of his eyes, and green and golden I was huntsman and hersman, the calves sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold, and the sabbath rang slowly in the pebbles of the holy streams.”

Childhood in so many ways is our own personal Garden of Eden out of which we grow up and lose our innocence. Our journeys pull us away from that innocence perhaps, as Robertson Davies wrote in Fifth Business, “One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.”

We cannot–at least for now–stay in the Garden. We have miles to go before we sleep and worlds to discover and ourselves to explore. But I wonder if part of growing up is learning hour to carry more of those old green and golden days with us into the practical world of adulthood.


Thank you to everyone who stopped by on November 21 for Blog Jog Day.

The Glenlivet

My wife gave me a bottle of Scotch for my birthday because (a) I like it, and (b) the protagonist in my upcoming novel likes it.

Trying to be frugal, Lesa and I usually get each other a cool birthday card and when time permits, go out to dinner. But this year is different and it’s not because I’m now old enough to have a Medicare card. (See the latest Morning Satirical News satire.)

2009 is special because the release date of Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire is also this month. It was supposed to be today, but printer delays have pushed the release into next week. That’s okay, though an August 12th double hitter would have been nice.

My birthday has been grey and rainy, but that’s great because after a wet spring, the drought has been trying to sneak back into north Georgia again. It’s been a good day to read and in a little while perhaps, pour several fingers of a single malt whisky into a glass and celebrate the moment along with Pablo Picasso’s sentiment that “It takes a long time to grow young.”