On December 26, 1954, the CBS network aired J. Robert Oppenheimer’s (1904–1967) “Prospects in the Arts and Sciences.” For Oppenheimer, who had helped to usher in the prospect of nuclear Armageddon, these two domains provided some comfort. “For the artist and for the scientist,” he stated, “there is a special problem and a special hope.” The nuclear age “has been long in coming; but it has come. It is, I think, for us and our children, our only way.” Hereafter, humanity faces a “perpetual, precarious, impossible balance between the infinitely open and the intimate.” The arts and sciences should make this confrontation not only bearable, but also productive. “Both the man of science and the man of art live always at the edge of mystery, surrounded by it; both always, as the measure of their creation, have had to do with the harmonization of what is new and what is familiar, with the balance between novelty and synthesis, with the struggle to make partial order in total chaos. They can, in their work, and in their lives,” insisted Oppenheimer, “help themselves, help one another, and help all men” (52). Ironically, that Oppenheimer could never harmonize the domains of art and science, as their titular separation in his “Prospects” implies, and that he had “become Death, the Shatterer of worlds” (Laurence 118), without anticipating that realization from within the rounded condition of being human, as his self-avowal from the Bhagavad Gita after the nuclear facts suggests, point to his unassuageable personal nightmare.
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