The astringently clear light of September 11

Rochelle Gurstein in The New Republic:

Inside_gurstein072005The beauty of New York on September 11 felt wrong, like a kind of mockery or cruelty but, then again, because of the quality of the light in late summer-early autumn, the weather is typically beautiful. It cares nothing for our affairs, I thought, and then began to wonder why I ever imagined that it somehow should. Surely this was a romantic conceit and I let it drop at that. But then the impossibly vast, storm-tossed, black-blue sky that fills the astounding painting by Albrecht Altdorfer, The Battle of Alexander, appeared in my mind’s eye. I went to my book shelf to locate this wonder of the early Renaissance imagination. When I opened the book and saw, in one glance, the swirling, tumultuous, infinite blue sky above and the swirling, tumultuous, infinite red battle below, each domain a spatial mirror image of the other, I immediately recognized one source for my feeling that nature should be in accord with human affairs. As my eyes pored over the astonishing number of meticulously drawn details, I took in how the magnitude of earthly events–the seemingly infinite number of soldiers rushing into battle against one another from all sides, armed with countless weapons, carrying countless flags and banners, on the backs of innumerable horses–was perfectly matched by the cosmic amplitude of nature unleashed–the swirling storm clouds, the lofty mountain ranges, the turbulent oceans, one blurring into the other, a sky so vast that it encompasses the sinking of the moon at its uppermost corner and the rising of the sun in its lowermost. The catastrophic chaos of war, I thought with a feeling for something approaching cosmic justice, was well met by the infinite scale of meteorological events.

More here.