Saturday, 20 December 2008

Cheap night in

As a poor, impoverished student, many years ago, I had several favourite cheap nights in alone. There were times when the emptiness of student life would drive me to screaming pitch and I wouldn't have been much company anyway.

A good night in for yours truly would be to read the whole of the Duchess of Malfi, or follow a Beethoven symphony on LP with a score, both could be purchased for peanuts from the countless purveyors of second-hand culture in the city. Then I discovered this in a book on non-European Mathematics:

You can read about it here, though I have to admit, its mystical significance was never of much interest to me.

It is a remarkable object and one I was determined to get to know better. In true physicist style, I set out to try and draw it myself, surely, I reasoned, with a ruler and a pen, it could be redrawn, after all it is just a series of triangles. Maybe I'm not a good draughtsman, but it is not possible for me to draw it. I could copy it, I suppose, but that is not the same as being able to draw it, having a feel for the ratios of lengths and angles, understanding it....mastering it.....

Nevertheless, there was something deeply satisfying in my numerous failures. The object became more beautiful and more remarkable. I found that I understood it better because I couldn't master it.

I've read somewhere it is a symbol of non-dualism. It is a meditation on the non-duality of male/female, body/soul, good/evil... I like that, an object that looks simple, geometric and Descartes-friendly and that ends up sticking two fingers (in the English bowman sense of the gesture)at his philosophy.

I mention this for Tom and suggest he turns to the Catechism:

365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e. it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

Science just can't take you there!

Incidentally, doesn't our failure in scientific progress and understanding make the Nativity all the more wonderful?

Verbum Caro Factum Est

1 comment:

Irene said...

Yes, the nativity is wonderful -- and beautiful also.

But science certainly can "take you there". Once again, Wiener and Bonewits provide an excellent scientific version of CCC para 365.