Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Alert readers will have detected, in these notes, what might seem a certain abstract and anti-material bias;  a certain hankering for the timeless, as over against such more ephemeral pleasures as the sound-bite, or scratch ‘n’ sniff.
            Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing the matter with living;  at least it’s something to do.
            You wake up, rub your eyes and yawn and stretch out of bed, run your palm across your stubble, then pad off to gargle and take a dump and shower and shave off your bristle, before finally settling down to whatever it is that you do to fill up the day – investment banking, cattle rustling, catching terrorists by the toe, puttering away at the draft of your Nobel acceptance speech, whatnot, whatever – filling in those blank stretches of Time  with the graffiti of our daily activities:      
             -- while above us stretches the firmament,   inscribed with eternal words, in saecula saeculorum

            And we keep marking time.

            Mind you, Time is all right.  As the man said, it does keep everything from just happening all at once.  But unfortunately it does not come prepackaged with all manner of interesting activities.  It’s like an empty Cracker-Jacks box,  without the prizes.

            And --   while we’re on this note of swart melancholia, let us address the objection that religious faith is typically in large part  environmentally influenced or  personally-determined, rather than following simply from the facts.   (Of course, the same applies in the practice of science, but that is scant comfrot.)
            Now, in my own case, there is a sense in which that is true, but perhaps not the sense which springs most readily to mind.  You possibly conceive it as a form of self-indulgence – stuffing oneself with visions of cherubs, the way one stuffs oneself with sugar-plums.  The real state of affairs  is virtually the contrary:  I no longer interest me very much, let alone reck the pleasures  as of any account.  Interest in other people is greater, because more varied, but still has an upper bound, since we’re all obviously  ultimately  in the same pickle.   But I am interested in math, and in cosmology, and indeed theology – anything that tends to lift us out of our own particular, limited monadicity – our isolated, hermetic, barnacle-encrusted, chamber-pot of a Self.  Cast wide the windows – Let in the air !!

~     ~

All which addresses the question, what to do with the limited budget of years -- or as it might be, minutes -- remaining to me, until the gentleman with the curvy scythe  shall crook his bony finger and beckon.

The prevailing notion is that old folks have earned their right to sit on a bench and nod in the sun.  Nothing wrong with that.  O.t.o.h., I occasionally have the sense that I have something that needs saying, and that I say it rather well:  much of which you can sample on this blog.  And a few folks enthusiastically concur:  but then, they mostly already know me, and any such groupuscule is subject to devolving into a coterie.  So perhaps it is all just marginally worth saying:  which means, in practice, in this age of information overload, really not worth saying at all -- don’t take up the bandwidth.

An abundance of informed comment, or skyrocketing viewership via word-of-mouth, could constitute counter-evidence to this dismal conjecture:  but neither has in fact eventuated.  An alternative, though inherently unlikely hypothesis, is that all this verbiage is indeed deeply worth-while -- but only to a very select few (some perhaps inhabiting a parallel universe).  Now, we do behold precisely such a state of affairs in recondite twigs of scholarship:  Sumerologists speak only to other Sumerologists, algebraic geometers only to others of their stripe.  I’d been aiming at a broader audience, but perhaps missing the mark:  not that the arrows went astray, but that they fly to a bull’s-eye of quite exiguous diameter.   Even so, had I an audience of even three supremely intelligent and influential people, who hung on my every word, that would suffice:  like I.F. Stone laboring for years in his paper-crammed garret, I could write just for them.  Otherwise, I might as well go off and raise hamsters.

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