The Island of Scientists

Maria Fusco

Nearly a year passed before he perceived that his love was bringing about a change in the vegetation of the pink coomb. He had taken no notice at first of the dis- appearance of grasses and small seedlings from the places where his own seed was sown. But his attention was caught by the growth of a new plant that he had seen nowhere else on the island. The plant had large, lace-edged leaves which grew in clusters at the level of the earth on a very short stalk. It bore white, sharp- scented blossoms with pointed petals and brown, ample berries which largely overflowed their calyxes. Robinson observed them with curiosity, but thought no more about them until the day when it became un- mistakably apparent that they appeared within a few weeks at the precise place where he had sown his seed.

And everything led to these concentric circles, alternative land and water with the central island flat- tened and trimmed into a large plain, a long oblong of impossibly perfect proportions, unthinkable in scale, unbelievable in fecundity, yielding to even the most barren of imaginations. — The circles were enclosed by a sea wall, constructed from stacks of flat stone slabs, which rather than feeling forbidding, felt alive and built-up with terraces of houses and muni- cipal buildings. — The continent was blessed with plentiful mineral resources, timber, — a wide variety of fauna, flora, wild vegetation, and vernal fruit trees. The intriguing thing is that the population did not simply consume the gifts of the gods but rather chose to undertake massive building projects, linking the rings of land with wooden bridges, for example, and digging a canal — three hundred feet wide, and one hundred feet deep, — which resembled a harbour with a mouth broad enough to welcome even the largest of vessels. — Even though it represented the gateway to an island, the port did not feel isolated but instead was crowded with swarms of international merchant ships, from which rose an incessant din of yelling, bawling and singing throughout the day and night. — The ziggurats, palaces and shrines were extremely rich and ornate, even somewhat gauche in appearance. — A symptom of affluence and confluence rather than influence I suppose.

That which is to receive all forms should have no form; as in making perfumes they first contrive that the liquid substance which is to receive the scent shall be as in-odorous as possible; or as those who wish to impress figures on soft substances do not allow any previous impression to remain, but begin by making the surface as even and smooth as possible. In the same way that which is to receive perpetually and through its whole extent the resemblances of all.

So then, what they had to think about was how they were going to spend their time and how they were going to tell everybody about what they did. This bi- furcated vacation was obviously a story in two parts, they were creating at the limits rather than in the middle of the community and — that must be a good thing, — since the main problem with this type of activity tends to occur when one tries to decide in which way tribes change when engaged in extensive contact with each other and in which ways they do not. — The rubric there was smudged. They appeared to be alone but in fact they were not. They appeared to have company but in fact they were isolated. This first contact, — the blush, the lack of functional interrelations, could I am told, last for a couple of days or for the whole week, depending on the particular family units. It took a while to recognise that the concept of total social fact was less static than they had been led to believe, than we all had been led to believe. Cultivated from a multitude of distinct yet connected planes, each irrigating the entire field and its entire range of activity, — this general inventory, when under- stood together constituted a society. In time, most were glad of the local knowledge and proactively engaged with the native customs and sports. The search for causes ends with the assimilation of an experience that is at once internal and external.

We have consultations, which of the inventions and experiences which we have discovered shall be published, and which not; and take an oath of secrecy for the concealing of those which we think fit to keep secret, though some of those which we do reveal sometimes to the state, and some not.

Objectively very remote and subjectively very concrete, the particular strain of inductive science enacted during that time proved very fruitful to the participants. There could be no doubt that their visit had informed them in a variety of ways; new sights, new games, new catches, new ideas, new ways of working. In time, mark-making and human gesture transformed their shared experience, causing a structural modification to take place, — their new skills and perceptions gradually pooled together to become a meaningful whole. — This tracking could be seen to express or rather compress time. The sifting, — measuring and exhibiting of individual sensations, — in a space that was far away from the island — and that was never changing in scale or temperature consolidated the contributors, — and — whilst they were never all in the same place at the same time, they had become a group.

To them I have incurred a debt which I can never repay, even if, in the place in which you have put me, I were able to give some proof of the tenderness which they inspire in me and of the gratitude which I feel towards them by continuing to be as I was among them, and as, among you, I would hope never to cease from being: their pupil, their witness.