Entering a sparsely occupied and generally unknown region of thought is like moving into a new land. The vistas are fresh, the soil unbroken. One wishes to settle down, put in roots, build a house, raise a family. Yet the very restlessness that carried one to the frontier will not subside. There is an opportunity to do everything, it seems; the whole world attracts one and is in need of attention. So it often happens that an erratic and mobile existence evolves. An energetic spell of construction ensues; a cabin is built, animals are bred, a garden is grown, a mate is enticed, a stone wall begins to go up. Then the winds blow, the wild animals pass heading upland, the rising sun beckons and the moon waxes nervously full. Off one goes, leaving the finished things, the half-finished work, freeing the pigs, and letting the roots wither. Now it is a new sight very day, a spring discovered, a strange bird and animal, a day fishing, a day hunting, a day in the hollow of a tree with a pain. The wonders of the region spin unendingly with the vault of heaven. One is not fulfilled, but then one was not fulfilled before: such is the curse and its thrilling clutch upon the pioneer.
I had thoughts akin to these while preparing this book. It contains pieces from everywhere, notes and essays, topics vigorously attacked and promptly abandoned, because one is moved by a different wondering. The earliest piece, concerning the mind of scientists, was written decades ago, the last piece just the other day. Some of the work reminds me of an abandoned plot of frontier land: if only a person had stayed there, he could have built a life upon it, as neat as a Swiss chalet. And is the world not built upon the stable creations of centuries? Yes -- but also upon the scouting parties, the forays, the fantasies.
My friend Gerd Roesler came from Germany to an island of the Aegean, to Stylida on Naxos, and I came there too. And there was none on the wild promontory and he wrote his Master's thesis on the geology of Stylida, and years passed, and he wrote his Doctoral thesis on the geology of the whole island, but after all of that he comes back and builds a house next to mine, which has stood alone all the while except when I might be there. Knowing much more of geology than I, to him the promontory was very old, whereas to this natural philosopher, it seemed very young. So we stand upon it side by side, and I say to him, "You see, Gerd, Stylida is young, even by your evidence." And he replies: "No, Alfred, these rocks are millions of years old... but maybe..." and he laughs, for he likes the feeling of the frontier, too.