The painter Morris Graves, for example, verged on nonliterary eloquence when he told me about being awakened before dawn one morning in India by a strange, beautiful, hypnotic sound, a kind of marvelous chanting. At breakfast, he learned that in that village, as in some others in India, the men and boys have gone out each morning since prehistory to chant the sun up. “Cynics scoff,” said Graves with a smile, “but the villagers point out that in all the millennia that they’ve been chanting, the sun has never failed to rise.”
When NASA scientists invited the mystical painter to Cape Kennedy to advise them on matters about which they were becoming increasingly uneasy — areas where astronomy, theoretical physics, and higher mathematics seemed to be inescapably crossing the line into the province of metaphysics — Graves told them about the Indian chanters, suggesting that NASA might do well to incorporate a similarly reverential, less brutal attitude toward space exploration. Graves found many scientists receptive, even agreeing when he argued that to truly “conquer” space, men need to travel inward as well as outward, and do so with the same focus, seriousness, effort, courage, and determination they would devote to searching for life on Mars or establishing a colony on the moon.
Graves was a master at turning things inward.