Delicate watercolours weave the narrative and poetry, in contrast to the vast topics covered in the text, bringing the reader to a place of deep contemplation, focusing on the minutiae of nature as a metaphor for universal themes.
Melding science, philosophy, poetry and art this book is an insightful exploration of scientific ideas, discoveries and how these relate to humanity and to us as individuals.
The poetry and art links the narrative chapters and gives the reader an emotional pause, while at the same time providing a thematic arc across the human experience; from wonder at our existence, through the passage of an individual life, and finally, providing a requiem for love and loss.
The Dying Alchemists is a collation of scientific knowledge humans have acquired over the last several thousand years, presented in layman’s terms, and is placed alongside lines of philosophical thought and reflection through poetry. The book shows a unity and networking of processes and patterns from the sub-atomic level to the grand arc of the Universe, connecting these to the similarly patterned and complex lives of human beings.
The combination of prose, poetry and visual art is a rich celebration of life and the wonders of existence and consciousness.
A note from the author
In 2003 I was sitting at home, late one afternoon thinking about meaning, searching for direction. That afternoon was glorious and as I sat under a clear blue sky, nearby birds gathered, flew away and returned to gather again. A crisp light streamed through the canopy of a towering ghost gum and the garden shimmered in the resulting heat. My gaze lifted to where the branches, like sun-bleached arms, playfully waved fists full of leaves at the daytime Moon, hovering nearby. I was mesmerised by the arresting intersection of form, colour and soft movement before me. It was beautiful, it felt complete but I knew that what I was looking at was an image created from my local perspective.
I knew that what was actually happening was different to what I saw. I had always found it fascinating and often wonderous that what we perceive is only a fraction of the full nature of what we are looking at.
That evening and well into the early hours of the next morning, deep in thought, I developed the working title and structure for a book I wasn’t sure I could write. I awoke in the morning and read further notes and scrawlings and felt a palpable sense of urgency to write the book. I committed then and there and from that point I dedicated three years to writing about the scales of reality and perception, and reflecting on where I thought we sat, as humans, within the Universe.
Twelve years in the making, and my life circumstances had changed markedly, I was eight years into a Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis and even though I was still considered symptomatically mild, I was aware that time was not necessarily on my side. In the rather pithy words of my first neurologist “take your holidays sooner rather than later, Nick”.
The Dying Alchemists is an attempt to collate some of the knowledge humans have acquired over the last several thousand years and place it alongside lines of intriguing thought, enabling us to hold a sense of the magnitude of existence. I hope you find wonder reading it.
For further insight into the creation of this book visit ABC Australia for an interview with the author.
A note from the Illustrator
The immensity and complexity of the Universe has always fascinated me. I am constantly astounded by the reflections of the macrocosm in the microcosm and the patterns that seem to shape our lives and the cosmos around us. For me, it is the intimacy of nature, the small things we often overlook, that say so much.
So, when Nick invited me to illustrate his poetry, covering topics as vast as the far reaches of the Universe, I intuitively knew it was the minutiae of nature that I had to paint. I could see, for example, a beautiful metaphor in the tangle of roots from an upturned shrub, representing the entanglements and branchings that shape our lives.
I have found such peace in creating these works and am grateful to be able to contribute to Nick’s moving and insightful poetry.
Twenty four original artworks have been created for this project, all of which can be exhibited for the public to view. Artist Tina Wilson and author Nicholas Bennett are available to give workshops and presentations to groups of all ages. Contact us for further details.