“One man is a world in miniature.” — Albert Pike

August 5, 2009

The Statue of Liberty in a needle's eye

The Statue of Liberty in a needle's eye

The BBC World News broadcast this morning included a report on Willard Wigan, a British sculptor whose works are so small that they can be seen only through a microscope.

Wigan traced this vocation to the fact that he is dyslexic. When he was a child, he said, dyslexia was not well understood, and he was accordingly treated as a cipher. He retreated into a fantasy world in which he built minature houses and other articles for use by the ants he found on the grounds outside his home.

It was one thing to hear the BBC radio reporter describing Wigan’s work; it was another thing to see photos of his creations for myself. They put me to mind of what I have recently read about the sizes of some circuits now in use and the prospects for such devices to become even smaller.

What are we more fascinated with, I wonder, the very large or the very small? In nature, the answer may be the very large; the Blue Whale still leaves us breathless. But where the man-made is concerned, my money is on the very small. The debacle at Babel aside — I think we are all convinced that man can build as large as he cares to, and so we aren’t so impressed when he outdoes himself. The Sears Tower? The Empire State Building? Yeah, yeah. Where should we have lunch?

Match head and boxing match

Match head and boxing match

The compelling thing about small, is that our imaginations don’t contain smallness as easily as they contain bigness. We could visualize a building tall enough to reach the moon — even if it’s a physical impossibility — but we can’t visualize things so small that we cannot see them. There is nothing in our everyday experience to give us a frame of reference — those of us who aren’t physicists or bacteriologists, that is.

At any rate, you can read all about Mr. Wigan and see more of his work at this link:


Girl on an eyelash

Girl on an eyelash


One Response to ““One man is a world in miniature.” — Albert Pike”

  1. tmvirr Says:

    Hey now, don’t rip on the Sears Tower.

    One night, while driving around the parameters of downtown Chicago, I felt inspired to write a song with a refrain that went something like: “Skyscrapers make my soul want to scream”. Maybe it would have been a better poem than song- I’ve never written a song before. Or maybe it would have been good for neither, but it was a phrase that I couldn’t get out of my head as I gazed up at them in awe, despite it being a period in which I saw them almost every day.

    While I see your point about the miniature, I think there’s something about the extremely large that provokes a longing to reach higher, beyond. Especially with something like skyscrapers that literally point upwards, they seem to represent our struggle to achieve something greater than one might ever imagine. It reminds me of a quote by George Steiner in Real Presences that I read in Radcliffe’s What It Means to Be a Christian:

    “Deep inside every ‘art act’ lies the dream of an absolute leap out of nothingness, of the invention of the enunciatory shape so new, so singular to its begetter, that it would literally leave the world behind.”

    The Empire State Building, on the other hand… that was disappointing. I might be prejudiced, though.

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