Last night I’ve been accused of math fetishism. I had a four hour reading stretch – without interruption – about what in math is called group theory. After a short stint around different people’s different explanations of how to better understand or prove Cantor’s theorem, on occasion I heard myself saying: Cantor’s diagonal argument is so beautiful, and group theory is just awesome! Of course I know nothing about math, but I don’t let my lack of knowledge stop me – especially not when – and let’s establish this once and for all – knowledge itself has never been, nor will it ever be science. So, call me a romantic, as I like the idea of approaching something we know nothing about, not because that activity might confer on us a sense of getting scientifically illuminated, but because it has the potential to disturb the silence within us: for example, Cantor has this effect on me: he makes me want to shut the fuck up, while saying it out loud. However, as my reading took place against the background of another kind of noise – Roskilde University, which is my new neighbor, celebrated its annual fest (with the polyester suits in the morning saying farewell to our principal who got a better job in Dublin and is now off to greener administrations, and the masquerading costumes embodying restless students in the evening) – I could see that my own silent evening activity could be interpreted as a sign of mild madness.

But as a thought came to my mind, around 11 pm, I decided to go out on the balcony. While looking at a magical moon, yellow like a pumpkin and having the shape of a UFO ready to descend upon the campus and abduct some inebriated subjects, I was reminded of the fact that with the rise of the scientific discourse, some time around Newton’s time, silence was instituted in the institutions that were producing knowledge with view to astonish. This is not a bad thing in itself, if only people would not have forgotten to communicate their astonishment in turn. Those familiar with the renaissance and pre-renaissance discourses will know that everything that surrounded celestial and earthly phenomena was explained then by learned men in terms of these phenomena’s relation to sound. Actually this interest in the relation of objects to scholars’ formulation of a science which constructs them went through an evaluation of sound, and it goes, at least, all the way back to Solomon and David (who after having grown impotent and thus unable to explore the feminine power and voice wrote psalms and songs that celebrated a whole lot of noise in heaven). In an interesting paper, Newton was called one of “the last astrologists” by Lord Keynes, who pointed out that Newton’s diligent reading of the bible grounded his formulation of his theory of gravity in his interpretation of signs according to their ability to sing the praise of singularity. And so it goes.

Why am I writing this? No particular reason. I am inconsistent with myself. But here's a thought nonetheless. While I may not have participated last night in the carnival that gathered groups of people together next door, I think that my reading about group theory’s arranging itself around closure, identity, inversion, and association, gave me more than plenty to think about, if nothing else, then, at least, the moon’s transformation from a bulb of fire into a cloud, falling into my own permutation group. Here, I want to reserve myself the right to permute consistency, or the urge to follow this or that convention, and thus destabilize the gravity of the gregarian spirit. As my good old friend Oscar Wilde used to say: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”


Bent said…
King David and King Solomon
Led merry, merry lives,
With many, many lady friends
And many, many wives;
But when old age crept over them,
With many, many qualms,
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
And King David wrote the Psalms.
(James Ball Naylor)

Powerful stuff that, there's no doubt about it. But there are two views of the matter; and since I have quoted to you some of my prose which are generally regarded as poetic I will now quote to you some of my Goon or McGonagall poetry which may well be regarded as prosaic.

Sophocles the eminent Athenian
Gave as his final opinion
That death of love in the breast
Was like escape from a wild beast.
What better word could you get?
He was eighty when he said that.
But Ninon de L'Enclos
When asked the same question said, no
She was uncommonly matey
At eighty.

(William Golding)

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