Friday, September 17, 2010

Fade to Blacker

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 1:22 PM

From Peter J. Cameron's web journal today—

Eliot’s Four Quartets  has been one of my favourite works of poetry since I was a student…. 

Of course, a poem doesn’t have a single meaning, especially one as long and complex as Four Quartets.  But to me the primary meaning of the poem is about the relationship between time and eternity, which is something maybe of interest to mathematicians as well as to mystics.

Curiously, the clearest explanation of what Eliot is saying that I have found is in a completely different work, Pilgrimage of Dreams  by the artist Thetis Blacker, in which she describes a series of dreams she had which stood out as being completely different from the confusion of normal dreaming. In one of these dreams, “Mr Goad and the Cathedral”, we find the statements

“Eternity isn’t a long time


“Eternity is always now, but …”
“Now isn’t always eternity”.

In other words, eternity is not the same as infinity; it is not the time line stretched out to infinity. Rather, it is an intimation of a different dimension, which we obtain only because we are aware of the point at which that dimension intersects the familiar dimension of time. In a recurring motif in the second Quartet, “East Coker”, Eliot says,

Time future and time past
Are both somehow contained in time present

and, in “Little Gidding”,

   … to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint

From this  journal on the date of Blacker's death
what would, if she were a Catholic saint, be called her dies natalis

Monday December 18, 2006

m759 @ 7:20 AM
Fade to Black:

Martin Gardner in the Notices of the American Mathematical SocietyJune/July 2005 (pdf):

“I did a column in Scientific American  on minimal art, and I reproduced one of Ed Rinehart’s [sic ] black paintings.  Of course, it was just a solid square of pure black.”

Black square 256x256

Click on picture for details.

The Notices of the American Mathematical SocietyJanuary 2007 (pdf):

“This was just one of the many moments in this sad tale when there were no whistle-blowers. As a result the entire profession has received a very public and very bad black mark.”

– Joan S. Birman
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
Barnard College and
Columbia University

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