Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sunlight at the base of a waterfall

with 23 comments

Look at how sunlight illuminated the splashing water at the base of a small
waterfall along the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park on March 12.


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On television a couple of days ago I heard someone quote Voltaire: “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” I wondered whether Voltaire really said or wrote that, so I went searching. On the Cato Institute website I found a 2020 article by Walter Olson called “The Origins of a Warning from Voltaire,” which linked to this passage from Voltaire’s Questions About Miracles (1765):

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois : Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné ; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre cœur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were people who said: “You believe things that are incomprehensible, contradictory, impossible, because we have commanded you to believe them; now go and do unjust things because we command you to.” Those people show admirable reasoning. Surely whoever can make you be absurd can make you be unjust. If the God‐​given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to the God‐​given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been tyrannized, all the other faculties will be tyrannized as well. And that’s what has produced all the crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

So the version I heard on television is a pithier, stronger version of the original. Voltaire was criticizing religion, presumably Christianity. Two and a half centuries later, we can apply his analysis to the secular “woke” religion of our time, in which people are demanding that we believe things as absurd as that men can give birth. More about that next time.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2022 at 4:35 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Beautiful natural spotlight. 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    March 25, 2022 at 5:18 AM

  2. Capture of the rock textural design is stunning.

    Yoli B

    March 25, 2022 at 7:19 AM

  3. It always surprises me how the simplest images can provide such drama; this one certainly does. The puddle of light attracts attention, of course, but the correspondence between the texture of the heaviest splash and the rock in the background is really interesting.


    March 25, 2022 at 8:03 AM

    • For a long time—decades—I’ve been thinking that simplicity is a virtue. As you noted, it can provide drama, too. And in this case there’s also the textural correspondence you mentioned. All in all, the image came out better than I expected when I took the picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2022 at 2:14 PM

  4. Beautiful waterfall photograph, somewhat abstract.

    Alessandra Chaves

    March 25, 2022 at 8:41 AM

  5. The light is stunning!


    March 25, 2022 at 9:33 AM

  6. Fantastic picture!


    March 25, 2022 at 1:22 PM

  7. A beautiful illumination. Thank you for illuminating the Voltaire quote. You may find it illuminating ( or maybe just disturbing) that in The Sims, one of the world’s most popular games, male characters can be pregnant. The game has received some criticism, from players, for succumbing to wokeness, but it still remains an incredibly popular game even for its critics. I don’t play The Sims but I have seen enough of it to enjoy seeing pregnant male characters. Even though it’s fantasy it feeds into a wish that I and some others have that it would be great if men could share the burden of pregnancy. It would make life so much easier for women. Ah, well, we can but dream.


    March 25, 2022 at 9:14 PM

    • I can’t do an illuminated manuscript but I can sometimes manage a beautifully illuminated photograph.

      People fantasize many things. Most of us grew up with fairy tales. I used to enjoy reading science fiction when I was in high school. Much of the world’s traditional literature posits things that are unreal. But when people demand that we believe the way something works in the physical world isn’t the way it works in the physical world, that’s something very different.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2022 at 10:24 PM

  8. The light is quite beautiful, especially combined with the surrounding darker flow.


    March 25, 2022 at 9:26 PM

    • Yes. I pulled down the tone curve somewhat to emphasize the contrast between the light and the things surrounding it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2022 at 10:25 PM

  9. Magical


    March 28, 2022 at 5:33 PM

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