Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Earth's Age

Feb 16

The French couple leaves me a bottle of betadeine, some sterile gauze pads, and a can of sterile water spray.

My last day with the rented motorbike, I go to town on fourth gear, eat my patent spicy lemon soup with prawn, then sip on iced tea with lemon.

On my return trip, I go to Lockie’s. He was out on the river on a boat with a couple. The guy is Russian and the woman is Kazakhi. They return as I enter his house. They dive from the deck and have a swim while to shoot Lockie. We settle on the upstairs patio, where they eat fried rice and I have a cup of coffee.

The Russian fellow, in his mid thirties, has a cross on his neck. He believes that the earth was created hardly 4 thousand years ago, and point me to Internet articles that cite errors in dating by radioactive disintegration. His main argument is that dating is an approximate science and that there are errors. I point out that there are errors but there are also margin of errors that are computable. He asks why do we need to answer questions about life and nature when all the religions have provided "all answers satisfactorily". I suggest that that is my main problem with religion: it professes to provide all answers, that one thing about science that is certain is that it is always incomplete but that it is self-correcting.

Lockie is a bit uncomfortable with our respective fortified positions, so we drop the debate.

The Kazakhi woman, also in her mid thirties, is smart. She is a lawyer with the International War Crimes Tribunals. Trained at the bar in the Hague, she has been all over Africa; the last assignment was in Sierra Leone. She seemed bitterly frustrated at the arbitrariness and stupidity of how the United Nations handled the tribunals and the outcome in Sierra Leone. She insisted that some sort of internal reconciliation is an absolutely necessary outcome of these war crimes tribunals. She remains quiet during my sparring with the diminutive Russian.

Lockie shows the draft of a book he has been writing, an autobiographical account of his long imprisonment in China where he was traveling with his two sons in the early nineties. I grab a few quiet Leica shots while we chat on the patio. Later he looks at my black and white portfolio and says he is going to paint some of those later.

When I depart I say that I will send them the digital images in a few hours but that the film images on the Leica, which I took on the patio while talking, will take a few weeks. They were all surprised that I took photos during the discussion....this even impresses me--the legendary unobtrusiveness of a film Leica!

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