Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More on “The Nature of Mathematical Porridge”

Having posted an earlier essay, and calmed down a bit, I bethought me:  perhaps I have been too harsh, in attacking the cultural relativists such as Raymond Wilder.   For at least he (like his fellow-subjectivist Reuben Hersh) is still within the camp of genuine mathematics.  All in all, it isn’t so bad.  But, caution!  If you move mostly in Cantorian and Apostolic circles, you seldom come in contact with the actual  howling-gibbon lunacy that exists -- well, not really in the fields and forests outside the groves of Academe, but mostly within the Academy, in those parts that have fallen prey to multiculturalists, and are thus a lost cause.

(One must say, proponents of the latter made a singularly unhappy choice, since, of all the objects of knowledge, towards which we poor bipeds strive, mathematics is surely the least flavored by race or indeed by species:  a mathematical pachyderm, or a thinking cloud, faces exactly the same problematics as any earthling reckoner whether Alsatian or Zulu.)
I’ll not polemecize against those trends, any more than I would engage in debate with Donald Trump.  After all, the people whose good sense I respect (mostly carpenters and electricians) and on whom the health of our nation depends, are unlikely to be seduced by such twaddle.  But let us summarize the subject thus:  Although no part of mathematics proper, the study of the acquisition and imparting of mathematical knowledge is a legitimate pastime among others, ranking as somewhat more important than the rehashing of yesterday’s sports scores (and other activities that serve mainly to keep the molecules moving), and somewhat below the latest brownie recipe (since you can eat the brownies).  Further, if you choose to engage in this pastime, your time will be better spent tracking the thinking of such men as Riemann or Cantor, than in celebrating how Mbobo of Gboko learned to count on his fingers (an actual activity of cultural studies  -- really, this stuff is beyond satire).  And finally, we must sharply distinguish between, on the one hand, the truth and proofs and applications of (say) the Urysohn Metrization Theorem, and (on the other), how you personally feeeeel about the theorem, as a person (as a gay person;  as a retarded American; as a transgendered Albanian).

All in all, the actual practice of genuine mathematics, at whatever level you can handle, is a stern and sterling antidote to the idols of the tribe now cluttering the agora.

Oh and -- Mathematical knowledge?  how does it come to us?  =>  By a mysterious mixture of insight (read: Revelation) and hard work.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The intercept’s valid; the source is close-hold.
That’s all you know, and all you have a Need To Know.

Actual Photograph of a Black Hole

Taken with the Kibble telescope.

Monday, June 27, 2011


My eyes, like some fountain,
with tears overflow...

"Once I Had a Sweetheart"
Onstage version by Carolyn Hester.

Echoes of Ancient Arabian Poetry

A recurrent theme of the Amatory Preludes of the old qasîdas,  is the separation of the young lovers, not by some Montague-Capulet quarrel, but simply by the tribe of the beloved going off to seek a different summer pasture.

The theme is reborn, across the ages and across the ocean, in “Sealed with a Kiss” (a song which yet does bring a pang):

A Moral Quandary

Recently we were confronted with the following agonizing dilemma:   Is it ever valid to use sexy, enticing, delicious-salacious material  in service of a higher cause -- say, Trinitarian Minimalism?
Troubled in our conscience, we betook ourselves to the private consulting chambers of our colleague and spiritual advisor, Dr. Massey.
“No,” he explained, citing the unambiguous opinions of numerous Church Fathers, “it is not.”
“I feared as much,”  I murmured;  and went sadly away.

Here, therefore, is an unjustified use of an eXXXtraordinarily HOT video in a good cause -- namely, keeping our favorite two-fisted pre-Conciliar private detective, Murphy, in beer-money.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fifteen Femtoseconds of Fame

As of this writing, a Google search on the following phrases bring up this blog (or that of our colleague and spiritual advisor, Dr. Massey) on the first page:

“Cantorian Realism” ©
“Trinitarian Minimalism” ©
“Urysohn Metrization Theorem” © [I know, it’s old, but nobody bothered to copyright it, haha, finders keepers]
“Theologia Mathematica” ©
"ontologia numerorum" ©
"Yemeni excellence" ©
"the affordances of mere reason" ©
“Humble Woodchuck” © [ditto]
“Hæc tibi erit janua leti” © [copyright valid only in the Vatican]
"museum of particular results" ©

In more sobering news, the phrase “Sit fides penes authorem",  which used to bring us up on the first page,  now shuffles us off to the very bottom of the very last page, behind a bunch of stuff related to some guy called Locke.   Hey--  NewsFlash to world -- Locke is dead, right?, been dead a long time, here is where it’s happening, hey Google, you asleep, been smoking dope?

Anyhow,  these are all excellent expressions.  Make every effort to work them into your conversation -- at summit conferences, at cocktail-parties, or simply waiting for the bus.  Add one to your signature block -- it’s free, no fees (while offer lasts).   While you sleep, if your computer is not already engaged overnight in such worthy collective enterprises as SETI or calculating the umpteen zillionth  digit of pi, why not set your system to continually search on these fine phrases, over and over, seriatim?  This has the added advantage that, when the FBI or some other friendly domestic entity looks over your online activity, such blameless phrases will quite swamp out your little accidental occasional pecadilloes -- oops, finger musta slipped -- as a search on, say, “preteen temptress” or “shaved orientals”.


OMFG !!!  This just in !  Check it out before it’s zeroed by the Illuminati !!!

=>  Search on “Bristol topless

and (*gulp*) Google takes you to this.  Good lord, this means my other site will soon be getting *billions* of hits!  Server failure!  Hack attacks! 

[Update 31 December 2011]
WDJ likewise tops the list for searches on
            “physics porn”
            consilience mathematics

A Triumph of Trinitarian Minimalism

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On Vulgar Numbers

[Note:  The title is a pun.  Cf. vulgar fractions, i.e. common fractions (as opposed to continued fractions, etc.)]

Among Harvard math-majors, back in my day (before your time -- don’t ask), the commitment to abstraction was intense and unquestioned.   We had barely begun to shave -- and many of us had never been laid -- but we took to abstraction like -- like a duck to water, like a kitteh to cheezeburger, like Donald Trump to a pile of manure.   It was to some extent an end in itself:  not the pitch of wisdom by any means, but temporarily no more harmful than any other young-man’s idealistic infatuation, the blaue Blume or what-have-you.  No sooner did we learn about a thing, than we wanted to generalize it.  Actual numbers had been replaced by x and y in junior-high algebra;  now we rushed to embrace the abstract structures in which these variables lived:  groups, rings, fields … The brighter among us (I was not of their number) before graduation  came to embrace  what its own practitioners called “abstract nonsense” (category theory, “diagram-chasing”), the night or perhaps twilight  in which all structures are grey.  As for the everyday numbers of science -- ungainly things with decimal points in them -- they were as attractive as a turd on a sidewalk.
Accordingly, we had no truck at all with what we called “apple-math” (punning on Appl. Mathematics, the course-catelogue designator, plus the notion of counting up fruit).  Such a department did exist, so we were told, probably somewhere out behind the barn;  but our steps would never take us there.   Oddly, the College itself shared our prejudice, it would seem, since Appl.-Math majors were denied the B.A. shared by math majors and literature majors alike:  they got a B.S., along with (presumably) majors in Sports Medicine  or Veterinary Science.   It told the select world:  “These fellows know how to ply a slide-rule, but they have not received the education of a gentleman.”

[For a glimpse of freshman calculus at Harvard, back when the world was young,
click here:

And for sophomore year -- the legendary "Math 55", fabled in song and story: ]

Appendix for physicists:

The most practical person must realise that abstract arguments (by which we really mean  arguments with a tremendously wide range of applicability  are a necessity … now that science has grown so vast.  If the engineer is willing to overcome his nostalgia for the practical, and embark on the study of Lagrange’s equations in a apirit of abstraction, he will be rewarded by having at his disposal a powerful tool for the study of electrical networks, which are not ‘dynamical systems’ in the ordinary mechanical sense, but nonetheless behave as if they were.
-- John Synge & Byron Griffith,  Principles of Mechanics (1942, 1959), p. 411

Graduate students in theoretical physics … are very often impressed with “formalism” -- the formal apparatus of their subject. … I suffered … from an infatuation with beautiful formalism.  Working with Viki Weisskopf was a most effective remedy against the excesses of such an infatuation.  He never ceased to harp on the importance of … understanding, by means of simple arguments, the physical meaning of a theory …
-- Murray Gell-Mann, “The Garden of Live Flowers”, in Selected Papers (2010), p. 27

*     *     *
~ Commercial break ~
Relief for beleaguered Nook lovers!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

*     *     *

Here, now, is a very funny reflection of a variety of attitudes about our number-friends:

Explanatory footnotes here:
Re the locus “2.9299372”, the explainer acutely comments:
2.9299372 is a President's Day reference because it is the average of e and pi just as the American President's Day is always observed on a random day between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays.

There is, however, another layer to this.   The notion of “observed value” is strictly from experimental science, especially physics and chemistry.  Thus, the “observed mass of the proton”.   In that sense, you could speak of an “observed” value of pi, meaning the length of a tape-measure wrapped around a circle of diameter one.  So here an image is conjured up, of e and pi being within experimental error of each other.   If you just consider them as regular old numbers, like the mass of the proton and the mass of the neutron, that even makes sense -- presumably there was a time when those two masses were not neatly differentiated.    But to a pure mathematician, the notion is riotous -- risible:  e and pi each thrones separately and uniquely in a starry empire of which they are sovereign.  Their structural status is everything;  their particular numerical value -- nothing.
There is, indeed, a big difference in ontological status between “observed quantities” and the pure numbers of mathematics.   As, in the case of mass, we can’t judge well visually ourselves, so we use a scales (or a cloud-chamber) and let that “observe” it for us.  In the case of color, sometimes the scientific intstrument is just our eyes.  So, “3.8 kg.” and “vermilion” have similar ontological status.  Whereas a number (in particular an integer, or pi), in pure mathematics, has no observational status at all.  Indeed, if anything, pi observes you -- it’s liable to pop out at you without warning.  You’ll be sitting there innocently summing up an infinite series (say of the reciprocal of squared integers), and it turns out to be pi-squared over six.

Commenting on “if you encounter a number higher than this, you’re not doing real math”, the explainer gets things backwards, I think.  It is not that discrete-math practitioners don’t think that the rest is not real math;  it’s that mathematicians in general, of the abstractophilic stripe, have little to do with big numbers in general, because these do not (like pi, or 2) constantly pop up when you’re not looking for them.   True, number theorists consider indefinitely large integers:  but collectively, with little interest in this one or that one in particular.   Thus, the Goldbach conjecture applies to all integers at once.  Should someone ever find a smallest counterexample, then that integer will be enshrined, for a time; if there are infinitely many counterexamples, its significance will shrivel.  Intense interest in a menagerie of specific large integers tends to be best represented, I suspect, among idiot-savants.

There are, however, a couple of comparatively recent developments  that really do care about -- or at least come across -- specific large integers:  namely, the (successful) classification of all finite simple groups, and  investigations of the exceptional simple Lie groups.


Finally, a rich index to a plethora of math-related posts:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trinitarian Minimalism

Minimalism in living:
(Ricky Scaggs, “A Simple Life”)

Note that the Simple Life does not mean being a hermit, nor even an ascetic.
“A man and a wife and a fam-i-ly.”   Amen -- the earthly trinity.

(For more on Trinitarian Minimalism ®, the fab new insight that is sweeping the nation, click here.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A New Tenant

A few weeks ago, I hung a pot of begonias from the front-porch lintel.  Sometimes I would water it in place, and sometimes, if rain was in the offing, I would set it out upon the lawn, that it might be refreshed from the gentle drops of heaven, unmediated by watering-can.
Beginning last week, whenever I would come out the front door, there would be a flurry of motion and a bursty blur, coming from the general direction of the begonias.   Like any creature of the forest, I was alarmed at first, but soon came to realize that it was a bird, making a hasty exit.
My first thought -- not really a thought, more like a daydream -- was appallingly unscientific:  that this bird came because she liked the flowers.   But she’s not a hummingbird, and regular birds don’t do nectar.  Plus she is here constantly, far too often for a nectar fix from this one little planting, when the cul-de-sac is bursting with gardens on every hand.   Then it dawned on me:  This bird is guter Hoffnung, and she has built a nest.

The world o’erturned.   No more dare I slosh the pot with water, drenching the eventual nestlings, nor set it out upon the lawn -- among the crafty cats.   But evicting her is out of the question.   Her choice, which had seemed quirky at first, in fact is splendid:  hung high above ground-based predators, and out of reach from any wood-climbing ones;  densely protected by the tufts of flowers from prying eyes.

And so it is to be.  She still takes fright -- takes flight -- when I emerge in all my hugeness from the house.  (Fair enough; though I would admire her the more, if she deems her clutch in peril, were she to stay and fight.)  But in time, and with the prayers of St. Francis, she may come to see me rather as a distant, benevolent protector.   For I have never so much as peered between the leaves, to spy what might lie there.   ‘Twould not be decent;  a gentleman simply does not do such things.   So I shall come and go, in silence and reverence;  and she shall sit and brood;  and together  we shall praise our Maker.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Note to Posters

There appears to be a glitch in the blogspot software.  Several people have mentioned that they tried to post a comment and could not.  I always moderate comments promptly and have never rejected a comment (for, say, rampant Nominalism).   If you experience such a difficulty, you can send the comment to me directly at

and I'll be happy to post it for you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Solstice !

In observation of this lovely day, we cite the observations of our friend Francis.

~  ~  ~

Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate Sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.
Et ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore:
de Te, Altissimo, porta significatione.

Still more senile drivel from the neuroscience drones

 (Hey, you want Fair and Balanced, go to Fox News.)

It is one thing when neuroscientists shuffle out from their labs before their media enablers, and leave their droppings on morality, tradition, religion, the arts…but now one of the chief offenders has published an entire book on the subject.  Its title escapes me -- something like Brainthrust: What Beelzebub Tells Us About Morality.  [Note to Webmaster: Do not monetize this.]

Much of what she says is standard-issue relativism, and reasonable enough if that’s your cup of tea.  But the contribution of actual neu-ro-sci-ence is minimal; she is simply using her neuroscience creds (and indeed, for all we know, she’s a wizard in the lab) as a forged passport into an essentially unrelated area:  the way a film star may set himself up as a political pundit.  As a reviewer puts it:

The story she tells about morality is, as you'd expect, heavily biological, emphasizing the role of the peptide oxytocin.

Got that?  Morality comes from oxytocin;  executive summary.  We read it so you don’t have to.
(Those of you who nevertheless wish to read further, can learn of her epiphany based upon …prairie voles, which apparently have replaced sea slugs in her affections.   Heck, I have epiphanies all the time, just from hamsters;  but she goes much farther, expertly twirling the scientific method to conclude that the Sacramental Conception of Marriage is just so much horseshit:  neuroscience favors the Excremental Conception of Marriage, based upon little sqooshes and squirts from the whoopee-glands.)


Not to be outdone, I have myself carried out a massive neuroscientific project, lasting years and costing billions, paid for by the grateful taxpayers.  And I have managed to determine, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that

=>   Mathematics is caused by caffeine  <=

This fact has long been known within the mathematical community, as witness the old chestnut “A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.”   But it may be news to those outside the field, who had fancied that the field had any actual substance.

The skeptics among you may wonder:  How can a simple alkaloid produce mathematical truth?  
The answer is simple, in line with the stance of our neuroscientist friends.  The alkaloid does not, obviously, produce “truth”, any more than a peptide can produce “morality”.  It produces, rather, “truthiness”.   The actual theorems are of course completely arbitrary, socially constructed.  Among the Tibetans, pi equals 7; among the Tierra del Fuegans, it is sometimes 3, sometimes 4;  among the Esquimaux, pi does not exist.  All these values are equally valid.  Among the Urysohnians, any regular space with a countable basis is metrizable;  among the Teabaggers -- well, they just look at you funny.

[More deliciously abusive polemics against this crew can be savored here.]

[Update Dec 2011]  P. Churchland's Machwerk is dismissively reviewed by Robert J. Richards in the new issue of American Scientist.  His conclusion:

The answer to the question “What does neuroscience tell us about morality?”  turns out to be:  “Not much”.

The Death of Language

Of late it has been my lot to spend a fairish amount of time in various dentists’ waiting-rooms.   They all provide reading-material, in the form of magazines which I would never, ever, but never read -- Grooming Tips for Nominalists and Fun with Gluttony or who-knows-what.  But yesterday, after having strolled down to the lake and then around through the woods to where my regular dentist hangs his shingle, and refreshing myself after a hot walk with repeated draughts of Adam’s ale, dispensed from a bubbling cooler into tiny conical paper cups, I noticed that the manufacturer in question (Solo, as it happens) had thoughtfully provided a splash of reading-matter of their own, which you could savor, along with the water, while awaiting your tooth-extraction or root-canal or whatever might be your pleasure of the day.

It is worth quoting the text in full:


The first thing you notice is that this means nothing, but nothing, at all.   This is Wernicke’s-aphasia language:  each word is valid, and the syntax is all right, but the thing is incoherent -- unless they literally mean that they are engaged in the business of nuclear power, since that is one of the few resources that Man can “bring” to the environment, the planet having already been created with the rest of them.
(Oh wait -- even that one we were born with, uranium at the planetary core.  Sorry, Solo.)

Further inspection reveals how the sentence was put together.  Each and every word was selected atomistically, independantly of the others, probably by committee, for its PC goodfeel. 
Thus, bring, not “take”:  more generous, more touchy-feely.   Alternative -- always good, diversity and all that.  Resources --  Now, this approaches the awkward area of manufactured goods, poured forth from smoke-belching factories manned by near-slave labor in Third World countries while the hillsides are denuded of their last remaining forests, preparing the mudslide that will eventually bury the entire workforce, but resources puts the matter about as delicately as it can be put.   For:  This really shows what their game is.  The preposition you would expect with bring is to:  it’s what you “bring to the table”, not “bring for the table”.  But for is, in itself, more positive than to: cf. do something for you vs. do something to youThe environment:  a total feelgood word, but ludicrously out of place, since after all this company does not, as a business,  plant trees or bring anything else to or for the enviroment, they bring a (quite useful) product to you.  The downfall of mentation, the enthronement of unreason, is complete.

The thing is reminiscent of those Japanese T-shirts festooned with random English words:
            Dollar   sexy   business
            sports   nice  HAPPYNESS

But the dixie-cup is worse, because the Japanese know they are just having fun rather than making coherent sense, whereas the marketeers at Solo are doubtless patting themselves on the back and awarding themselves bonuses for this show of Corporate Responsibility.

Perhaps, you suggest (trying to make excuses for these swine), the slogan means, though it doesn’t say it, that their paperware is made with recycled shmush.   But actually no:  For along the side we read:

COMPOSTABLE * Made with renewable resources

“Compostable”!   The mangled bodies of miners are perfectly compostable, that says nothing at all, save that their dixie cups are not made out of a decomposition-resistent substance like diamond or gold.   And “renewable resources”… Hmm, just what might those be?  Trees, obviously;  the buggers cut down trees, millions of them, deforesting countless acres.  So fine, do it, but don’t pat yourselves on the back for being green.

Ech!  faugh.   Where are the Wobblies when you need them.   They would know what to do with the following simple ingredients:
            One (1) length of intestine
            One (1) disemboweled capitalist
            One (1)  lamppost

Serves millions.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Adventures in Minimalism

In my original post on the matter, in an essay of brilliant condensation, I said all that needs to be said on the fascinating topic of Minimalism.   However, it’s a rainy day, and there’s nothing good on TV.  So I figure I’ll while away an hour or so saying some more stuff about some other stuff.

~ ~ ~

Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation (1964), p. 339, quotes Hemingway’s advice to budding writers:
     “The more bloody good stuff you cut out,
      the more bloody good your novel will be.”

~ ~ ~

The Iliad of Minimalism:  a mock-heroic epic

  We weigh our words
  in careful prose.
  Be one found wanting,
  away it g---.

[* An earlier version of this epic poem ending in “goes”.  But it quickly became apparent  that this was to insult the intelligence of the reader, since the word is implicit in the rhyme-scheme.]

~ ~ ~

Minimalism:  Mode d’emploi

WARNING  :   Minimalism can be deadly if misused.
To avoid the swamps of Buddhism, solipsism, atheism, and nihilism,
adhere strictly  -- as in a gale you would grab the mast -- to the blessed doctrine of the Trinity.

(Hmm…  Cantorian Realism…. Trinitarian Minimalism… I’m liking it … possibilities there … )

De musicâ; de gloriâ (Finis)

[continued from this]

And now we come to the brunt of the anecdote.  Something I have harbored within my bosom, smoldering;  something spoken to no-one,   lo  for half a century and more.  Even now I can scarcely bring myself to tell it -- even now, with grey hair framing a weathered visage, even now I blush to think upon it …   It’s not that it was exactly shameful;  it’s just… it was  … just …well…  all …. so…. :   stooopid…. ;  and so lame….
Ah well.  Worse things shall be bared to the vision of every adjudicating angel, upon Judgment Day.   Worse things -- far worse;  but yet nothing, quite, so … embarrassing…

(Perhaps you are by now -- conditioned by a churlish media -- expecting something overtly gross.  Nothing of the sort.  The media flattens and demeans.   For the true searing sense of mortification, and its paradoxical sources…. Look into your heart... look into your heart…..)

Well I… okay… one day…  I   ad-mit it!!  I --  just : went  :
                        up  :  to  her,           and,
without comment and without so much as a by-your-leave,
…  …
handed her a dime.  

(??)       (!!???)
(Did that register?   Do you grasp the full pathos and horror of this?)

                        I:     Handed;   her;   a :        dime…..    (…..)  

And then skedaddled.

Well.  That much is bad enough.
But the saga     does not end    there.
Eheu!   Would that it did….

You need to understand:
This was 1956;  more than half a century has passed,
since those dim distant times.
And in 1956, in our own little household,
ten cents was  two weeks    of my allowance!
And that meant a hard and flinty choice between:
One (1) Mickey Mouse comic book (about the only sort of literature/art/culture  we at that epoch  took in).
Two (2) candy-bars @one nickel each  (and ye  who now treat these  as nothing:    Know :
never were we casually granted candy-bars, back in Ike-time, save as we saved;
so that, for us little ones, the savor of a Tootsie roll,
was as water from a clear spring, to the fawn…)

So this…dime…. which, to you, is nothing more than an annnoyance,
mixed in with the lint of your pocket-litter,
which you might    --  fling!   to a beggar,
in complete  contempt…

This thing was, to us, like… the Symbol,
the summary and the symbol
(FDR on it -- not that we knew him -- but he saved gramps and grandma  from
starving to death )  --
Yea much as the wafer -- round as a dime -- doth prefigure the mystery of the Eucharist --
the symbol of  two whole weeks  of our young lives…
(: our smallsweet    lives    which
came,  we knew not Whence,
and knew not, Whither tended….)
:  An incalculable commitment.
For:  from thence, unto  
    >  Death Us Depart  <
is but a skip  and a hop
across  the yawning chasm     of   godhumbled   Time ….

And so.  Myself, I might well have left it at that.   Already ashamed;  and yet,
Time  Heals all Wounds.   (Does it Not? --  No it Doesn’t.)
But yet:   She.   She came up to me, the very next day.
and said:  :   :       ((said))     :
with a chipmunk-facies of nut-lust
(wince ye, as though anticipating a blow)
=>   “How about  if,  tomorrow ,  you give me a quarter?” ?!!??!!!

(The auditorium rocks, as with the groans of the damned.
In time they die down; and we resume.)

Ah!  Carol, Carol,  wherever you are,
No doubt but, by God’s grace, thou hast repented --
bitterly repented.
Bitter as colocynth,  or the salt of the sea.
Indeed I pray that thou hast done so, and found relief;
for hast thou not… It does not bear thinking.
For what I here -- for me! -- recount in shame,
this -- thou, for thee  --…. ‘tis unimaginable.

The incident was almost laid to rest (being after all unknown,
to any but our own two stupid selves;  and between us, never alluded to),
when,  perhaps a week later, perhaps a month --
ah, but why try even to guess at metric time,
when for us, durée filled up all of empty space --
for all I know  it was the   very next day ….
but anyhow… 
One of my classmates told me, or else I overheard him saying it to another boy
(there was really little distinction between these two scenarios, at that time of our group-mind pupation):
Stay away from that Carol:   she’s a …. gold-digger!”

(Ah,  Carol!  Carol!  Such sleepless nights  thou must have passed,
as that epithet -- shared by the group-mind among every child on the planet,
looking suddenly up alertly from the drinking-fountain,
irrespective of any actual participation in that particular exchange of words --
as that cruel blade of an epithet  did repeatedly slice 
| slice |
 down  !           
through the epidermis, the dermis, the underlying tendons,

For our health and our sanity,
Repentance is needful,
more than bread.
De profundis clamavisti, Carolina! )


It is finished.   My quill is dry.
She, as I,
has felt the stroke of sixty.
God willing, she is a grandmother.
God grant that her white hair,
now covered with a modest cap,
its simple white contrasting  with the black or brown of her plain woolen gown
-- her hair turned white     in a single night,          at the age of eight,
when she   in a soul-stroke    realized   the full horror,  of what she had done --

God grant that it did, in the fullness of time,
miraculously regain its full true color,
as it was stroked by her sweetheart, the pastor,
in the simple woodland setting   where they dwelt with the rest of the Bruderhof:
praying and praising, thinking and thanking,  feeling and fasting --
joining in a sweet embrace of an intensity the yet more shattering,
as it was unmixed by any base concerns
of Lust, or Greed, or Pride…
Her face weathered, but still fair, after years of poverty
gratefully embraced,
with no wealth to bequeath
her children   save the Truth
as it was nourished in a mother’s breast.
And having once passed through the flame,  annealed and anointed,
with faith now fortified,
they could with the more fortitude behold
as their own offspring sped   tumbling  into life,
to repeat all the same, all the agèd mistakes,
the same heart-breaking, unhappy-making, mistakes and missteps,
that ever our proud cotton-headed wool-gathering distracted folly has concocted,
again and again, down all the generations and in every age,
since our blessèd and unhappy race  was first engendred:
since we all splashed   miraculously    into being,
from the loins of Adam,
and the womb of Eve …

Sunday, June 19, 2011


 We interrupt this exciting narrative  with a commercial anouncement.

There is much that I might publish, did the extant works but sell.  All on this site, you read for free.    Now here is a taste of a story aimed at those familiar with the apostolic faith.    You can buy the whole thing for less than the price of a beer.  All proceeds go to the Old Detectives Home.  (Myself being the Old Detective.)

Murphy Calls-in a Specialist

            Crux sancta sit mihi lux / Non draco sit mihi dux
             Vade retro satana / Numquam suade mihi vana
            Sunt mala quae libas / Ipse venena bibas

                          -- old folksong

It was one of the strangest cases of their entire career.

The client arrived unheralded;  hesitated at the doorway, hand raised to knock upon the open door, but let it fall.  At a nod from Murphy, the elder of the two detectives, she entered,  and found the chair without being shown;  but then paused, as though waiting her turn to speak.

Murphy murmured something, encouraging her to go on.
She looked at him pleadingly;  trying, but not managing  quite to meet his gaze;  and from time to time, for an instant, her sight would be jerked off  to one side, as though briefly engaged in some other room.

One had the sense that she would have spoken softly, slowly, but for some lower-lying source and force of air.  Her speech came in bursts; and at times did crack, and then  for an instant  there issued, like the wolf-sound through the cracked reed of an organ pipe, something that was not her voice.

Finally, she was able to speak.  “I am under attack.”

Murphy flinched, said nothing.  He had never had a case as serious as this.

But Joey plunged in.  “What -- by criminals?”

She half-nodded, shrugged.  Yes, she guessed you could call it that.

“Can you tell us who they are?”

Violently she shook her head.

Joey leaned over and whispered hotly in Murphy’s ear.  “Only one outfit can scare a dame like that: The Mob!”    

The lines tightened around Murphy’s mouth.   They took her name and address, and a smattering of particulars such as marital status (single) and age (41).

There seemed to be nothing more that anyone could say.  The Murphys agreed to take the case.

[To read more, click here.]

De musicâ; de gloriâ (Continuat)

[a continuation of this]

Not that everything was lavendar and roses, not even back then.  Here -- from Nashville, 1957 -- is a heart-rending tale of lost love, love lost:

(Everly Brothers, “Bye Bye Love”)

Now, in 1957, I was all of seven.  But I had already experienced lost love!  -- No no, do not make fun of this, or imagine that it’s cute; Kids Do the Darndest Things and such shallowness as that.   So deeply does God’s mighty and mysterious law of Male and Female (man and woman, created He them) reach down into the very heart of things:  that no child -- no toad -- no flower, no, no very blade of grass, but doth proclaim and show forth   the incredible impossible insoluble paradoxical   decision -- or whim --  of Him,
to split Nature
                      --> SMACK! <--
                                                    down the middle,
with either half   yearning,
for the other…

It happened in this way.  1956 -- I was six, in the first grade.   It was the first real shock of schooling -- we didn’t have preschool back then, anyhow not in our neck of the woods, so that kindergarten was simply the introduction to the horrible unreasonable inexplicable prospect of being taken away from mommy for a couple of hours, for no reason anyone could imagine  (in fact, I still haven’t figured that one out).  In kindergarten,  they didn’t actually try to teach us anything, not even the alphabet;  we just scribbled away with crayons, and half-learned a couple of songs.   (One is given to understand that, in later decades, the academical curriculum became rather more rigorous. -- But I digress.) 
But in the first grade, for reasons best known to the Lord, things became suddenly very intense.  It was like all at once being at an Ivy League college (and I’ve been there; believe me: Harvard wasn’t as hard).   It was the year we were all supposed, and indeed expected,  to learn to read; so we knew that we had to learn the alphabet; and I mean, BLAM!  we knew the alphabet!  Just like that!  Like cramming in med school, or I don’t know what.  Or divine revelation,  perhaps from Apollo  (whom we salute,  albeit from our later, latterday,  sterner thrones as Christians -- some matters can never be explained).
Plus:  Arithmetic [< ! >]  put in its first appearance --:  the very first thing that we ever had met,  that seemed to have abso-lutely nothing what-so-ever to do, with anything in actual life as we knew it (and which yet held, curled within its bosom like the viper of the Tree of Knowledge, and somehow (troublingly) vaguely intuited by ourselves --  the very seeds of Fermat, and of the Riemann Hypothesis  -- But such blood-boiling heart-rending sagas must be postponed to a later time…)  We all learned so amazingly much that year (still almost nothing, but double what was before), we were downright giddy.

Now another thing, the strange thing about the first grade, is that there was now another factor, a new something, something new and untasted and wondrous and strange:    There were girls.

            Now, statistically, I suppose, there must have been girls way back in kindergarten, but I can’t remember any, never noticed ‘em.  Everybody just kind of toddled around; and I *suppose* we used different bathrooms, though we may not have; I really don’t remember.  Whereas, in later grades, each year, there was that very stern no-nonsense fieldtrip down the hall, on the first day of school, before almost anything else, where the whole class (double-file) marched down and then
halted:  before the mystery and the majesty of:
                                    <<  the  Two Rooms >>,
with their forbidden doors.     The boys go in here; and the girls go in there; and don’t you forget it.
            So.  I had no sister; and your mother isn’t really a girl, in any way that you can (or should) understand; but I  had - heard - tell of them, these curious and rather marvelous creatures:  with their mysterious way of -- standing there; and their inscrutable way of -- saying something; and their delicious way of sometimes, almost as-it-were …. mo-o-oving….  moving away… and maybe they might -- half-turn back, and over the slim small shoulder, grant you (yourself now gasping)   a  slim   slight   (was that a?)  (small)
                                                   smile …..........
            But I digress.   (And shall digress again; and shall digress until I die…)

            Within the class, there was a petite little slip of a six-something (six years, some months),  with almond-brown eyes  and with chestnut hair (or darker; nay, rather darker), named….
                            ……    Carol.
For the very first time  I have named thee;  and this, by thine own name.
And this Carol -- well I knew nothing about her, we had never once exchanged so much as a word.  Boys didn’t really talk to girls at that point, and even boys talking to boys, or girls talking to girls, were just miniature autism-spectrum midgets talking past one  another,  talking and talking and giggling and pointing, making none of us  any sense  out of anything:   yet somehow, in the fulness of time, this whole craziness of clay  became shaped into something more social; more noble; something shouting and shining  in the image of God.
(Again I digress.   I cannot help it.)
And so:  Carol.  Definitely -- you can take it from me, b’gum, b’dad, -- take it from y’r Pappy, take it from Gramps, from all my long experience in after-years -- definitely a purty little imp of a girl.
But what to do?  How to approach her?

(No… no… We are not ready to confront that flash and tragedy, that primal scene, just yet.   Some further preparation  is in order.)

So what was she like, this lass, who so had snatched my little candy heart?   Well -- a pert, impish slip of a thing,  with a ready smile.  Beyond that?  Hard to say…  But lest ye imagine, I jumped the gun,  be aware that, of my then self, I can discover even less.  I was a…kid…and…ready and eager to like kid things:  only I had as yet been insufficiently instructed in just which kid-things one was expected to enjoy, in one’s capacity as a 6-year-old in good standing, in that golden mid-decade prime of America  under Eisenhower.  So komme ich mir vor:  der Bube ohne Eigenschaften
            And it is not as though I have forgotten.  I remember, as were it but a moment ago.   I retain privileged access to the contents of my then mind.  And so I enter, and look around… and find it largely empty.  Unfurnished;  Space to Let.
            It was, therefore, no minor milestone -- no small deal at all --when the young and, though youthly-sprightly, yet still strangely sluggish spirit (like Adam in the painting, before the fingers touch),  still almost without form, and void, first dimly perceived   that astonishing cleavage and bifurcation in the very midst of Man -- comparable in its sweep and scope, to that parting of the waters  either side the firmament -- and to the refutation and rebirth of those lower waters:  when, like Eve from the rib of Adam,   dry land was drawn forth from their midst.    For what had been but dim and misty tacit knowledge,  now stood starkly forth, in bright relief:

         Male and Female     created  He   them --

as the full majesty and mystery of the implications of this, are new-born in the fledgeling mind:

         Male and Female…   created….. He…. me…. and thee !!!!

O let the playground ring and echo with His praise!   For  not Atlas  bears the world upon his back, not turtles-all-the-way-down -- but John and Mary Miller,  of Littlewood Lane!

For in truth:   --  But for this sacred flame, to lighten and enliven this cold Cosmos,  the sky would wane   dull as lead;  the planets, grown listless in their orbits, spiral sadly into the sun.   All the constants of physics   would weaken and diminish,  the atoms collapse; and All would disappear, with one ultimate glum shrug,  into the Black Hole of its own sad solipsistic Selfhood.

So:   I insist that this event, when the still only half-conscious and un-self-aware mind, became aware of the Other -- and did love -- is as momentous  in its way  as any clash and crash of armies, bursting through the gates of Asia;  as the birth, or supernova-death, of any star.    We who were made in His image, do bear, within our frail and halting frames, the microcosm of all that is  or ever was  or is to come.

What then of the objection that, having barely met her, and never so much as exchanged a truly focussed interpersonal word (as opposed to the laughter and chat  that buzzed perpetually about the schoolroom  like a swarm of gnats -- emitted from no-one in particular, and directed To Whom It May Concern), I was in no position to pine for one girl  any more than for any other;  that the position was shallow, unworthy of detaining our attention.
Well…. things have to start somewhere.  Things… evolve.  Thus consider:

When a gentleman squirrel  finally sets his cap  and, forsaking all others, plights his troth to his ladysquirrel --  it may be doubted whether, in sober fact, his choice were informed by long acquaintance -- those heart-to-hearts by the fireside, those long walks together in the woods -- whereby the merits of this particular individual -- brightness of eye, bushiness of tail (saving your presence),  and   above all  the ability to find, to bury, and to relocate nuts,  so essential to a well-run nest-hold,  and the survival of the offspring (really, a squirrel can’t be too careful) -- such that these merits had truly been set upon the balance, and weighed against the competing excellencies of yet other long-lashed, coy, and sciurine beauties.   Indeed, in a few cases, I fear, the loving couple had not thitherto been properly introduced;  and that the maid’s first experience of her newfound swain, the father-to-be of her squirming furry brood of littles -- destined to spread  the length and breadth  of the forest, sowing terror among the acorns, and joy among the peoplechildren who really get it, who really truly get where those scampering rascals are coming from -- that this sudden introduction, dispensing with the niceties,  was when she first detected, perhaps with something resembling alarm, the busy attentions of the impatient young gentlemansquirrel, somewhere in the area of the aforementioned bushy tail.

Zoologists early noted, how the young of related genera  resemble one another  more than do those specimens which  have attained to the full, specific idiosyncrasy of adulthood.   And so here.  We did not ourselves much resemble squirrels, back in the first grade; but we did resemble baby squirrels -- tumbling bustling clueless furballs, forever dropping our acorns  or tumbling out of the nest -- to land softly in the outspread aprons of our moms.

[Finished here]