Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

Philosophy vs science progress. What is more important to mankind? What makes us happy? The play Arcadia (1993) is set in a country house, Sidley Park, in Derbyshire, and follows the lives of people living there in the 1800's and present day.

The play is rich and complex. Stoppard explores many different themes and contrasts such as past and present, and order and disorder. They melt together and show that everything is connected. The story offers more questions than answers. It involves philosophy, history, classic literature, mystical poets like Lord Byron, landscape design, murder speculations, population dynamics, mathematical algorithms and thermodynamics. And everything comes together perfectly. Some of the characters even investigate science that challenges Newton's theories of physics. It's very interesting for people with great curiousity. 

The play also investigates the meaning of certainty, the nature of evidence and truth in modern ideas about history, mathematics and physics. Clues from the past can be interpreted in different ways. And because they can't be proven to be false, does that mean they are true? Is truth the necessary opposite of false? The characters are struggling with this problem when they are thinking about history and time. Much of the play centers around time - research about history and attempts of predicting the future with an equation, and the exceptions that make it impossible. They discuss the hypothetical theory about the prediction of the future being prevented by irregularities such as sex. Perhaps love is the exception of the rule, which makes the future so difficult to predict. The disorder in feelings, the contrast, or perhaps the connection, of passion and madness, is a kind of practical example of chaos theory. The concept of order vs chaos theory is explored in different ways, both in personal feelings and physical disorder (the table in the center of the room that collects objects from both time periods). The characters' social order moves into chaos, where time is depicted as a kind of illusion. However, there might be order in chaos, perhaps we are incapable of perceiving it because our lack of knowledge.

There's a tragic theme of smallness, universal insufficiency and the life going in one direction. Despite Newton's equations that goes both ways, there are certain events that are irreversible, like time, and fire and heat (the second law of thermodynamics), as well as the cooling universe and burned relationships. But the characters in the 1800's are living on in descendants and letters. Life is eternal, and at the same time, it is the exception of the rule. Stoppard paints this picture splendidly. When there's chaos, there are no longer any rules, and the different eras intermingle. The structure of the play is a work of art itself.

Last but not least, every theme is evolving from the source of love and death and it's both tragic, comical and thrilling. And regardless of time they think and reflect. This is a play for people not wanting to be served answers, but prefer to interpret and form their opinions along the way. Answers are not important. Conversation is. So, connecting the dots, philosophy or science progress, reflection or knowledge? When the characters face a dark future, and when the world is doomed – due to chaos theory - they turn to music and waltz. So, perhaps that is one answer to the question about what's more important to mankind?

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