The alien astronomer gazing into his telescope light-years away, someday he might see you. Pull over and jump on the hood and flail your arms and shake your fists, for you will leave no other trace.
The restless ghost of Lake Lahontan fills the desert. A primitive mind would accept no explanation short of smoke from the extinguished sun. An educated one might fear that again a great asteroid has struck.
“You can’t drive,” she says. “It’s a sandstorm.”
“I thought it was the gentle mist of a rainforest. I’m recharging the battery.”
“Do we have to listen to this?”
“It’s an antidote to the techno music. Dean Martin soothes me.”
“How bad is your sunburn?”
“Don’t look. I can feel the pressure from your eyes. Amputation might be necessary in one area. I hope we can still be friends.”
As though celebrating the celebration of a celebration whose meaning mutated across some great Chinese whisper, three gypsy women with pink hair and Hula Hoops lurch into existence. A plaid unicorn struggles to keep up then splits in two, amoeba-style. The posterior curses the anterior. You buzz the window down and call to them but they keep going, making their way back to the Martian Mardis Gras.
“Close it!” she says, covering her eyes. “The sand will ruin the stereo. Are you out of your mind?”
“I spent the day wandering around in a desert. If A then B.”
She laughs and takes a long drink of water and hands you the bottle. “You have to drink even if you’re not thirsty.”
“[E]mploys secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force” Publishers Weekly
What will you say to your friends at work about this dustbowl Dada exhibit, this infomercial for Archetypes Gone Wild? Will you mention it after a discussion of the ballgame? Words, those crude nets sufficient for trolling shallow waters, how will they transport these fantastic creatures? The inability to describe something makes it your captive. And vice versa.
“How long do sandstorms last?”
“This is no biggy,” she says.
“What about Ozymandias?”
“That statue was ruined, not buried. Let’s try again. This is romantic.”
“It hurts too much. That stretches the skin. Think of a balloon inflating.”
“Why did you have to walk around nude?”
“Because I never did before and this is the place to do it. I can’t believe we saw your friends.”
“That was so weird.”
“You didn’t have to yell to them.”
“They won’t remember.”
A man in red, white, and blue greasepaint walks at an angle against the wind as though approaching an angry god not by faith but through sheer force of will. Fantasizing about a motel with soft sheets and a pool, you watch a yellow submarine materialize out of a receding brume. Brontosaurs of black rock slumber in the distance.
“It’s clearing up,” she says. “Let’s go.”
Enter a world where Nature endowed her children with bioluminescence. They dance and roll and galumph across the playa. Held by an indecisive stagehand, the moon can’t decide which circus ring deserves attention. If an alien astronomer 12,000 light-years away peers into a telescope it will see the campfires of those who once lived here, see them fishing cutthroat trout, nursing babies, dying. How long until a band of nomads are burning effigies on the floor of Lake Michigan?
You climb the spiral staircase of a dragon’s neck and stand in line for two Martinis. “We shouldn’t be boozing,” she says. “Alcohol is a diuretic.”
“I read the all the survival crap too. Think of it as medicinal. We don’t have to worry about snakebite. Is this Burning Man bigger than last year?”
“Probably. It’s hard to tell.”
Enchanted by throbbing bursts of sound, a gathering of gyrators proceeds as if dancing in the moonlight is no less natural than flying south for the winter. Maybe they’re right.
“Let’s find the Abstininthe bar,” she says. “Keep your eyes peeled for Sigmund the sea monster.”
“There are 30,000 people here and we’re going to hang out with your ex. We saw his lame costume at Halloween.”
“At least he has one.”
“In case anyone asks, what are we?”
“You’re Angry Sunburned Guy. I’m your longsuffering girlfriend who’s really an android.”
“Why am I angry?”
“You thought I was conscious but it’s only a simulation.”
“All this time you’ve been faking. That’s a crusher.”
Outside a tent lit from within by a strobe light, two men in pink suits sip piña coladas. They’re wearing stools on their heads. You gawk. Perhaps the absolute absence of meaning creates a black hole from which not even thoughts can escape.
“Think about it,” says one. “You can figure it out,” says the other.
No you can’t. Like the sound of one hand clapping, this koan withholds its satori.
“We’re pieces of gum.”
Standing beside you and taking judicious inhalations from a balloon, Moses Jr. says, “I don’t get it. Why would gum wear a suit?” He offers you a hit. It’s a simulacrum of dessert, matter-free whip cream. The sounds of things stretch and convulse on their way to your ears, slithering on the ground where they receive an electric charge. Everything you’ve heard heretofore has been acoustic. Now it’s plugged in and distorted by a wah-wah pedal.
You look to the stars for mooring, the only constants in this carnival of flux, but you’re forgetting something. They are no more eternal than breadcrumbs tossed across a dark pond. Permanence is relative; oblivion, patient. That even they must die, these cherubs who shone for billions of years in a wondrous way, should their mortality bring you comfort, a familial affinity, or despair? Are ceremonies underway on any of their adjacent planets or have they all blown themselves up?
She takes your hand and leads you away. You catch the vapor trail of her thoughts until the magic gas releases you from its spell. Why couldn’t our atmosphere be composed of nitrous oxide? Would that not ensure utopia?
A statue of Medusa dwarfs you. Glow Stick serpents flap in the gritty breeze. Zealously she withholds her raison d’être or denies its necessity. What were the surrealists rebelling against? you wonder, clinging to the absurd idea that all this makes sense in some Big Perspective if you step back far enough. Careful. You could fall off the edge of the world before figuring it out.
“I wish you wouldn’t huff that shit,” she says. “There’s no way of knowing if it’s pharmaceutical grade or the stuff they use in cars.”
“If it’s good enough for A.J. Foyt it’s good enough for me.”
A man draped in green rags calls to her. They hug. Reluctantly you bump knuckles with her ex. “A tossed salad? That’s hysterical.”
“I’m Sigmund the sea monster.”
“No one remembers that stupid show. You could say you’re low tide, or a pile of leaves, or the Green Reaper after he’s fallen on hard times.”
“I’m Sigmund the damn sea monster, alright?”
She scowls at you. “This is awesome, hey?”
“Yeah,” he says, which marks the high water mark of their conversation. The tedium of what follows, how it hobbles the frenzied majesty of the night, serving to demonstrate the banal essence of language, proving that whereof one cannot speak he should remain silent. (But could a romantic poet do any better? Dante, maybe.)
“You ready for the burn?” she asks him.
“Why do they burn it?” you say. “Per Frasier’s Golden Bough why not have a corn man everybody eats? Or, to symbolize the transitory nature of things, they could have Dissolving Man, who’s made of dry-ice and fades away to nothing. Burning is too medieval, too inquisition-like. Don’t they want something more in tune with paganism?”
They regard you with brute stupefaction. “Have you seen Steve?” he asks her, not deigning to engage your inquiry.
“Hey Squidward, is there a port-a-potty around here?”
“Sigmund! Yeah, keep walking that way. You can’t miss them.”
Your not-so-distant male ancestors would have bathed in his entrails. You’re not fit to kiss their feet. You hear her apologize for you being “like that.” How wonderful it must be to have risen so far above our nature. How did she do it? And why hasn’t she shed temper tantrums and her belief in astrology, or do those increase with enlightenment?
Harpo and Groucho ride unicycles while juggling bowling pins. Chico sits on his haunches yelling some eastern European dialect into his cell. “I loved Animal Crackers,” you tell them. “It was your best one.”
Groucho smiles but shakes his head. “Night at the Opera,” he says, his voice an accidental property of his accent.
The splendor of five-foot cupcakes cruising past is negated by the painful need to defecate and knowledge of the horrors it will entail. Why must the earthly trump the transcendent? How can Flesh prevail over Spirit, not content to conquer it but insistent on derision? When you raise your eyes to heaven you get kicked in the groin.
“Did you find one?” she says.
“No, but there was a signed urinal out in the open.”
“That was an exhibit,” says her ex.
“Relax, Spongebob. I’m joking. Let’s get going.”
The space you travel cannot be measured in meters or minutes. It’s more like the distance between Alice in Wonderland and Zod Wallop. A wave of sand deposits Ye Olde Nutmeg Tent. Subsequent waves threaten to take it back.
“Hot chocolate drinks aren’t going to be too popular,” she says.
“Nutmeg? No way.”
You smile at a girl who’s wearing a Daniel Boon hat, furry boots, and nothing else. Below her pierced naval, four tattoos depict an animated sequence of dancing bears. The narrow entrance to heaven is not obscured by any dark medium. “Nutmeg is like a six-hour panic attack during a hangover. It makes you feel –” The first bear, red, stands with feet planted. The second bear, green, has one leg lifted. The third —
“Why don’t you take a picture. If you wanted to drool at naked women you could have spent the week on a stool at Heartbreakers.”
“I wasn’t looking at her tits.”
“I’ll give you that.”
Clouds at dawn exhibit more evidence of design than anything below. Chariots of mutant divinities scramble for parking. And that hovering molten ball, what is it?
“I can feel something,” she says. “It’s kicking in.”
Should you mention the neon paisley swirling on her skin? Hopefully the realization that this was not an ideal time for spelunking inner space will be as fleeting as most sensations. If it bothers you, subdue the monstrous blazing ball with the cure-all potion of familiarity. Compose a dossier. It’s 31,000,000 times as far away as your apartment is from Heartbreakers. Its age spots are cancerous and malignant. We revolve around it and it revolves around something else and what if it starts leaking? One drop will burn everything to cinders. Grab her hand and run!
“What’s wrong?” she says, the two worst word-thingies to hear at this time.
“Nothing. Just trying to block the glare.”
“Here. We need to keep drinking water even if we’re not thirsty.”
An unspoken rejoinder seeps into your mind. Or we’ll die. But what is death? Stranger still, what is life?
Four chessmen skip past holding hands. Maybe they’re refugees fleeing the genocide of pawns in the Old World. Will their communist experiment result in an egalitarian paradise or even worse horrors? You know the answer. Stop them before it’s too late.
“It’s getting hot,” she says. “We should look for shade.”
Or we’ll die. Killing time on acid was precarious enough in an air-conditioned hotel room after a Grateful Dead concert. This is of a different order of magnitude. What were you thinking? Her brainless ideas — foolish in theory, disastrous in practice, unyielding to the stern professor of experience, subjected to the analytic rigor of a child at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor — why don’t you act as the break of sanity? “If you think about it, Burning Man isn’t any stranger than the sun,” you tell her, longing for companionship on the lonely frontier of obvious but neglected musings, the stock-in-trade of your rueful choice for breakfast.
“How’s your sunburn?” she says. A malevolent gleam in her eyes suggests the interior is being leased to demons.
“Would you like to see my tan?” And in an instant you’re observing the redundant ritual decreed by the one tyrant against whom there can be no uprising. It commands your return to the oneness whence man emerged, its titles as silly and insufficient as the strings of letters and numbers used to name distant galaxies. Those crude and diminutive monikers, make love, coitus, fuck, are they not the flimsy shields of cavemen cowering before an unfathomable force?
Aggregate of life’s bliss and purpose, beauty and filth compounded, joyous mocker of our spiritual yearnings, derider of the conviction that our lives are necessary and not the by-product of hapless rutting brutes, why must it come with the disconsolate reminder that the best thing about existence is the means of its perpetuation?
While an earthquake crumbles the crust of your mind, pulverizing the shanties that make you different from other animals, the misery of being human abates. Sweet misery. Focus on the counterpoint between the squeaking seat and the rhythmic squish until the little geyser aimed toward the future departs the present.
“Sometimes nasty, brutish, and short is even better than nasty, brutish, and long,” she says.
“Your perception of time is all goofed up. That was at least three hours.” You supplement the post-coital euphoria with one of her cigarettes. “An ultra lite? Why don’t you just read about having a smoke? That would be more intense.”
“Let’s walk around. It’s too hot to stay in the car.”
A Stonehenge of wiry sculptures stands on the dusty plane, skeletal extraterrestrials reaching toward the sky as though forsaken by their mother ship. You feel their pain. The artist walks beneath a purple parasol, beaming. A motley assemblage of admirers compliments him. His pride is misplaced. Look at his hands. They did not create. They transported items from the warehouse of the Possible to the garden of the Actual. But who guards that warehouse? Who laid its foundation?
Under plastic palm trees, dreadlocked drummers beat out Morse code in many languages, each competing for aural supremacy. As always, the sum absorbs the parts, nullifies them. Remember that. A green-haired fairy with nipples like drawer-pulls performs a rain dance, waving a magic wand. One of her wings flaps in the breeze; the other dangles from her back as though swatted by a surly ogre. Correlated to her supplications or caused by them, gray and white intestines ooze from a mortal gash in the sky. The lake that once resided here, perhaps it’s only vacationing.
At the main camp sits a throng of laptop jockeys. What on earth are they blogging about (other than the all-important fact that they’re blogging)? The one in the mink shawl and aviator goggles, maybe he’s updating his Facebook profile to reveal that asparagus is his favorite vegetable.
“The dust is going to mess with their computers,” she says, dancing to a jazz trio composed of obstinate soloists. Beside her a girl rolls a crystal ball from arm to arm and over her shoulders as though privy to its orbital irregularities.
“What do you get when you cross the cantina from Star Wars with the Mall of America?”
“Base camp isn’t like anything,” she laughs. “Your dumb metaphors don’t apply.”
“Similes. And everything is like something. It’s a matter of figuring it out.”
“Why are they cheering?”
“The man is burning,” she says.
“Why is that a good thing instead of a reason for mourning? If the ceremony doesn’t have a fixed meaning it could be interpreted as some purgative tragic festival.”
“So cry if you want. Maybe some over-arching theme will be created retrospectively. None of the big religions started all at once. The stories snowballed. What if the man keeps coming back, like a phoenix?”
“They can do better than that contrived mess. How did a bird set itself on fire? Did it rub two rocks together? Weren’t the Egyptians aware they lack opposable thumbs?”
“I don’t think it was meant literally.”
“It’s the curse of the Pharaohs. No one can go within fifty feet of a keyboard without making a reference to it.”
The man implodes. Like the anointing of a holy spirit, the pyre bathes the crowd in light and embers.
“Let’s do a theme next year,” she says.
Good news: she plans on being with you in a year’s time. Bad news: she plans on being with you in a year’s time. “I heard Epcot is having a Burning Man exhibit. Let’s go there instead.”
“That’s not even funny.”
A sandstorm absorbs the cars and tents, dissolving them like solids in a clear plastic blender. You feel like a tranquilized animal on a nature program. Sweet blessed exhaustion. You can enter the kingdom of sleep as an honest man. No need to storm the gates with her little white pills. Hobbling across the bridge to Nod, your last thoughts resemble a prayer. Grateful for this gift, you bless the arbitrary and deranged source that doles it out, the way prisoners freed from the Gulag thanked Stalin. A tenebrous dream about marionettes riding a train with no conductor infests your sleep.
Conspiring in an empire’s decline they disassemble the carnival. What analogue does this willful, ordered, peaceful fall of a civilization have? Monks smearing away a Mandela? A video of ants building a colony played in reverse? The obscure theory that Time ends in neither a quiet diminishment nor a wrathful judgment but a yank back through every instant of history to that first moment when the Great Watchmaker finished winding?
“It’s a long ride home,” she says.
“Seventeen-hundred miles will go by in a snap. I can’t wait for Nebraska. Remember to pinch me so I don’t think I’m in heaven and go off the road.”
Driving down I-80 you feel like you’ve seen a ghost. Something maddeningly more than the sum of your senses yearns to escape but cannot be freed. Is that not a form of possession? How will you describe it? As it slips through your verbal nets you’ll wonder if it happened at all. You sneak glimpses in the mirror but there’s nothing to see. The celebrants at Burning Man, shamans replete with rituals and sacraments but no creed, shadows cast by spurious deities, paintings by Louis Wain on the canvas of the desert, their beauty and mystique is a function of their impermanence. Leaving neither fossils nor temples they vanish, created ex nihilo and parting with equal abruptness.
“Someone should at least plant a flag,” you say. “Archaeologists won’t even find footprints.”
“That’s one of the main principles.”
Take solace. The alien astronomer gazing into his telescope light-years away, someday he might see you. Pull over and jump on the hood and flail your arms and shake your fists, for you will leave no other trace.
Meet Soothey, Official Mascot
“If I look gross you need addictive mind-numbing drugs.”
Do hole-pocked patterns bother you? Radical idea: Stop looking at them! Turn off the gadgets. Unplug the digital intravenous. Open a book. There is no law of physics compelling you to “ask your doctor about Tryposoothe,” the new-fangled miracle treatment for “a serious disorder that often goes undiagnosed.” That this state of mind is actively sought by some Eastern religions is never mentioned. Where’s the multiculturalism?
The ads are so creepy most viewers will wonder if they’re ill. Cole and Wilkins explained how this is a natural response to patterns that were often deadly to our prehistoric ancestors. Is it asking too much of Psychiatry to pretend Evolutionary Biology exists and has something so say about defining “illness”? If it’s not a disorder in the Darwinian sense you’re pitching snake oil with scaremongering, not unlike a recent campaign to convince the public that opiates need not be addictive and everyone needs them. (No, that wasn’t true.)
SPOILER: Tryposoothe is a designer Benzo “specifically designed to reduce and re-balance the stress chemicals saturating the receptors overloaded by the flight response this phobia triggers.” Right. Behold the glossy brochure with a colorful graph and huggable homunculus and all shall be revealed.
You’d have to be peaking on acid to believe a word. Not to imply this was predictable, but there are Andromedan civilizations who saw it coming. Name a condition Benzos wouldn’t help in the short term. But are they necessary for an altered state actively sought in other cultures as a means of Quietude? It’s a “mental illness” on one continent but enlightenment on another. Psychiatry, you’re making baby Derrida cry. Our faith in you can no longer prevent Reformations.
(BTW, why did the suicide rate EXPLODE during a time when SSRIs became the third-most consumed substance after air and water? Shouldn’t that almost be impossible on a priori grounds? Psychiatry, from now on you’ll need more than pens and clocks to distract us. )
Everyone’s a socialist but no one reads Lenin. Who stands to gain from these potions? The masses huddling at the feet of savage lotus pods? Please. Follow the cigar smoke.
Early Ad for Tryposoothe
A Response to an “Empathy-Challenged” Writer
“You write that we should just ‘turn off the gadgets. Unplug the digital intravenous. Open a book.’ Thanks! Great advice, jackass. Is omniscience fun? Does G-d ever get jealous? What about those of us with intrusive thoughts — regardless of where we look? What about people like me who only lose control when we dream?”
A montage of his recurrent nightmares, based on a lengthy email exchange:
I sit up in a park on the outskirts of a city. Furious clouds tumble across the sky like boulders down a mountain and smokestacks of lightning turn the buildings into tombstones. Seven Lotus Pods surround me, cocking their heads inquisitively, beaming their thoughts to me, judging mine. Somehow we converse without speech and I can detect unique ideas from different Pods.
(“No, it’s not ‘interesting,’ as one shrink said. It’s the most disgusting and horrible thing I’ve ever experienced. I’d kill for a script that mellows this out. So what if it’s a Benzo! Not to get all cosmic on you, but maybe this is why these drugs exist. Be glad you don’t need to resort to drastic options. Who TF are you to tell my doctor what solutions he can utilize?”)
Two of Them part, permitting me to leave the circle. At my feet there’s a silver walking stick with a golden thermometer attached to one end. The Pods watch, their segmented blue eyes fixed on me. Per their sovereign decree, I retrieve the stick and head into town where people writhe on the ground clutching their throats. Some run amok through the streets dodging dog-sized rats and covering their mouths from whatever plague has doomed the others.
Serenely I approach a bank and hold up my staff to its sign. Darkness like ink spills across the sky but an auroral light surrounds the thermometer. The Lotus Pods examine the reading through my mind and dispatch me to another sign to measure its temperature.
The bank thermometers DO NOT correspond to the actual temperature, They insist. To prove this We need readings from other thermometers. But they might be lying too. This could be demonstrated by a third group. But if those thermometers are inaccurate We’ll need another set. There is a way to settle this for once and for good, to escape The Loop. Proceed.
“And eventually I wake up. But you can’t stay awake indefinitely, not that I haven’t tried. Tell me more about ‘turning off my gadgets!’ A designer Benzo sounds just about right.”
A Sympathetic Author Responds to the Dreamer of Holes
Face your fears, always, absolutely, directly. There are practical considerations you have neglected. The author endured Post-Traumatic Mountaineering Disorder sans chemicals of any kind, sublimating the existential agony to create Art. Perhaps these dreams have meanings you shouldn’t flee. Is it not curious how we once explored them to heal the psyche (the disguised fulfillment of suppressed wishes, said Freud) but now they’re shunned? Who stood to profit from the destruction of this paradigm?
The U.S. does not need another buckshot blast of an addictive pill (proven safe by two six-week studies!) Our deaths of despair can only be remedied by subtracting the despair, not by adding drugs. There is only one consolation for the Trypophobiac: You look as strange to them.
Once upon a time, alternative explanations could at least be mentioned. On the Wiki page, the philosophical analysis provided by Jablonski occupied as much space as the reductive bio-materialism hooey. Then it was reduced to what you see below.
Then it disappeared. Now it’s gone. Take your Tryposoothe and stop asking questions.
What’s the difference between God and Prime Numbers?
The Former has causal agency and absolute simplicity; the latter share the essence of permanence itself. Humankind will morph into something worse and vanish altogether. The sun will devour the earth and turn to ash and the motley caravan of days will journey no more, but an infinitude of Primes will remain, irreducible, imperishable, pulsing with life like bioluminous creatures in a dark sea, not contingent quirks in a vale of tears but omnipresent passageways to all possible worlds, their properties impervious to the warp of dreams and the solvent of Time.
The Ishango bone from 23,000 BCE with its nineteen and seventeen and thirteen and eleven notches, is it not a baton handed to us by Paleolithic kin, a magic wand brandished by apprentice sorcerers? When they weren’t drawing bison or sharpening spears they were tantalized by the same riddles that obsessed Euclid. They may not have discovered the causal relation between sex and pregnancy, obvious only in retrospect, but they knew some numbers are more powerful. Some numbers are magic.
Go back further. Do you see him? Seated on his haunches in the brush waiting for creatures you couldn’t find on Wikipedia in a month. Do not let the grandiloquent names of eras fool you. In the way a finite number of sunsets separates you from childhood, a longer orange and black chain of days connects you to him playing with rocks. He gathers six and puts them in two groups of three then three groups of two. Six disappears like a patch of water on the horizon that fades when he goes to inspect. He adds a stone and mixes them into groups of three and four, two and two and two and one, six and one. They defy all attempts at destruction, possessing some intrinsic cohesion as though consisting of persistence itself, which they do.
Furrows distort his pronounced brow. He has no sounds to affix to the visions and sensations flooding the cave behind his eyes. An antelope wanders past but he does not see it. A cloud of dust arises over his futile attempt to reduce the stones. The sun spreads his shape over the concoction, creating the first blackboard. Which discovery is greater, his or Newton’s? He picks up the stones* and holds them to his chest to share their indestructibility? Perhaps man’s longings for everlasting life arose thus.
Standing upon his shoulders, mathematicians savor a vicarious taste of immortality, interacting with Beings who will endure, the sole survivors, the ultimate hombres. Space and time will expand and explode like some cheap balloon, leaving a puff of quantum dust, but Primes will endure undiminished, glowing with life in a sea of Nothing, unbound by the chain of days. They never weren’t and always will be. You weren’t, barely are now, and soon won’t be. You jelly?
This mystery religion demands sacrifices, but not of blood. Men sell their souls. Why not their sanity? Maybe the erosion occurs naturally. After glimpsing the Foundation of things, jeweled pillars in a secret kingdom sought by philosophers and poets and scientists alike, the return to this stockyard of flux is more desolate than Lazarus’s homecoming.
Mathematicians are watchers in a sacred garden, observing fauna more fantastic and elusive than gryphons or centaurs. And you can never join them. Ever. Your C+ in Algebra did not equip you for this expedition. You are a paralytic separated by a canyon from Riemann’s forest, its august splendor cloaked in the bewitching haze of twilight. Even for the Elect who can enter the hidden paths it soon becomes too dense. Many do not find their way out.
If the summum bonum is contemplation of the divine, how indescribably cruel to predestine most to ignorance. Surely some approach is possible, some humble veneration. Making up in vigor what it lacks in precision, an analogy suggests itself. Few Catholics understand the philosophy of Aquinas. Neither do they need to. Salvation comes from faith and good works. And ritual. Ritual sustains everything else. Unfortunately the asceticism of the Pythagoreans makes their reverence difficult, not that you didn’t try. There were fewer temptations in ancient Greece. Vegetarianism is easy when there isn’t a Burger King on every corner. A new faith is needed. When in doubt: WWMLD? (What would Martin Luther do?)
The Temple of 1,234,567,654,321,234,567
The disciples of Pythagoras lost their way due to doctrinal entropy. Latter-day secularists (“mathematicians”) spend their days scribbling hieroglyphics, discussing Star Wars and Far Side cartoons and disdaining the reverent awe of the simple devout. The wielder of the Ishango bone would have clubbed them. They need an empiricist monk to ground their work and offer it as a sacrament to the faithful. They need a Temple where the incorporeal suffers the contortions of Existence to join the common man, that doomed but defiant twinkle of statistical glory who always turns to iconic representations to focus his mind on what he venerates but cannot see, to deflect his attention from the motley caravan of days. And Temples need keepers
The 3,370,501 paper clips in your storage Pod are as tangible as the bones of the martyrs enshrined in the Otranto Cathedral. The Rubbermaid totes in the garage, decorated with glow in the dark stars and filled with assorted screws, nuts, and bolts, need to be counted on a regular basis. You would not pray the rosary only once. (The Tic Tacs were a bad idea; foolish even. The ants could not be quantified and the Tic Tacs decreased.)
Removing the fourth step to your front door left a big drop, but the top is now a magnificent throne overlooking seventy-nine pink flamingos spray painted gold. Judiciously chiseled off the walls in the living room, missing portions of crown molding create 101, 103, 107, and 109 arches respectively. Added to the first floor, a seventh door leads to a tiny cave of crumbling plaster, but its absence was intolerable. In the aquarium across from you, Hardy and Littlewood the Oscars hover like prehistoric genies, incredulous witnesses of a bygone time. Segmented amber eyes separated by fist-thick foreheads watch you watch them watch you watch them. Out of their line of sight, a community tank of Tiger Barbs flanks the fridge. The unexpected demise of the thirty-first necessitated feeding one to the Oscars to preserve the tank’s harmony.
Unlike a Mandela** representing the impermanence of things, the 444,449 marbles covering your basement floor signify persistence. How many nights have you spent scooping handfuls, rolling in them, marveling at the certainty that no smaller assemblage can infiltrate and disband them, that they constitute a perfect unity despite their multitude. If only your mammoth-hunting forbear could join you. Rest assured, he is here in spirit. So is Goldbach and Euler and Gauss and Ramanujan and perhaps we are not distinct minds but manifestations of a Great Monad pondering the eternal. Death will not extinguish your flame. It will rejoin those who have partaken of these mysteries, which means your self or ego or whatever they’re calling it this week is an illusion. You do not exist independently of thoughts about the Primes.
No faith is bereft of tribulation. The presence of the Truth increases knee-trembling questions. Pascal was a featherweight when it came to angst. And gambling. The number of irreducible particles in the universe either is or is not prime. Can you live without knowing? If not, the competing option poses interesting problems. The Taurus Raging Bull in your dresser can hold five. For all numbers other than three, if a prime gathers you unto the Great Monad, a non-prime is your epitaph; if a prime remains, you were felled by a feeble, reducible assassin. The 15,683rd day of your life approaches. Decide by then or you’ll have to wait for the 15,731st.
Caution is required when adding bottle caps to the collection in the attic. How could you think 22,333 is prime? Your status as a simple monk does not absolve you from the responsibility of thought. Count them the day after you open them.
Hose the bird droppings off the bronze address numbers affixed to the back of the garage: 6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,641 mocks the insubstantiality of physical reality. That many grains of sand would not fit inside the universe. So much the worse for the universe, this botched concoction, this hodgepodge of waves and particles seen through a glass darkly.
6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666, 666,666,641 exposes the shadowy stuff of which you consist. Kneel before it and raise your arms. Squint and see how they are misty outlines. Behind them 6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,641 catches the light, not dependent on it for illumination, gleaming like some golden bridge over the stream of Heraclitus. Sixes do not secede from this union. They do not reveal themselves as circles and arches and squiggles the way letters in a word do if stared at too long. Run your fingers across it. Feel it pulse with the heartbeat of Reality. Ignore your Gladys Kravitz-like neighbor’s incredulous stare. The ravenous indifference of Reality will soon devour her. And other things.
Note well: if God is not free to make square triangles, married bachelors, alternatives to modus ponens, or give 6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666, 666,666,666,641 more than two divisors He is as powerless before them as you. The Supreme Mathematician’s workshop was built to fit the anfractuous corridors of an a priori labyrinth. Perhaps He spends His days soaring past zeros on Riemann’s critical line, approaching omniscience since no amount of positive confirmations can prove it, exploring the endless beauty of a landscape He did not create. Blasphemy and crazy talk? Then what is the nature of their relation?
Cicadas buzz, having emerged from a slumber of thirteen or seventeen years to mate for a few weeks and die. Who’s the wisest animal again? In your armchair you prepare seven bottle tops for the collection. Hardy and Littlewood shimmy up and down their aquarium, ignoring partially submerged Ping-Pong balls. Through bubble walls they soar like enraged deities defending a crystal cosmos. The enormity of the tank filled with 151 gallons fails to diminish the footballs with fins, as though their significance is not dependent on any relation to a grander scheme, as though their fierce nobility and purpose would endure in the totality of water.
Novels Featuring Mathematicians Afflicted with Great Evil
*Not the band.
**Petronius Jablonski created a Mandela made entirely from colorful bits of Styrofoam, thereby felling the branches of Buddhism predicated on impermanence, hopefully ending their wanton destruction of good art. (They’re worse than Pete Townsend!)
***And how often are primes two apart? Consider 18,407,687 and 18,407,689. The nebulous wisp between them, is it not akin to the dreamlike pasture separating the granite castles of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies? No one knows if there is a biggest such instance of sibling rivalry or if they continue forever. The largest heretofore discovered contains 300,000 digits. It is not impossible that man will join the shells encased in sedimentary rock without figuring it out. Our digital replacements will be no less stumped but more stoic in its face.
If you don’t choose your thoughts you don’t choose anything
You don’t choose your thoughts
If a hierarchy governs their placement it eludes codification. No obvious criterion separates the bobbleheads on the upper shelves from those below, certainly none based on contributions to civilization. Why is the Terminator next to the Incredible Hulk? What twisted taxonomy consigns Simon and Garfunkel to different shelves?
Look closer. Patterns emerge and vanish, icebergs of data drifting in an ocean of static, foiling assumptions and postulates. Is chaos a type of order or is order a subvariety of chaos? Are they antipodes or kin? If nothing is random then chaos is shorthand for ignorance. Careful. Some people break codes. Some codes break people. The line is slight and you won’t know you’ve crossed it. Others will.
Perhaps the difficulty involved in their acquisition is key. The bobbleheads easiest to obtain reside in the center. The more rarefied spread out in a spiral pattern. Regrettably these subjective elements necessitate the decryption of a medium even more convoluted. To account for a collection we must first understand its collector, forcing us to explain the enigmatic by means of the incomprehensible.
“How many bobbleheads do you have?”
They gander like alien invaders awaiting the signal to attack, their infiltration scheme brilliant in theory (camouflaged in the likeness of their prey) but destined for disaster owing to the retention of their oversized craniums.
“Many are called. Few are chosen.”
“You have more than that bar on Lincoln Avenue.”
“Bobbleheadz. The bobbleheads at Bobbleheadz are mostly sports figures. Quantity counts for nothing. Quality is indefinable.”
“How long have you been collecting them?”
“I prefer not to think of our relationship in those terms, or any. To speak of some things devalues their importance by denying the uniqueness of their nature. It assumes a linguistic currency that can be exchanged for the subject in question. Priceless things have no currency, conceptual or otherwise.”
“So they’re more like roommates or imaginary friends who aren’t completely imaginary. I get it. Not.”
“Would you like to see the heads bobble again?”
“Again? I’ve never been here before.”
“I was thinking of the ones in the bar. You should see these.”
“Big day in a girl’s life. Is this like that act where the performer has to keep ten plates spinning?”
“Much more impressive. Take a seat in the big comfy chair. Stare at the one in the center.”
“It’s Karl Marx.”
“Why is he between Chico and Harpo?”
“Think about it.”
“So you sit here and get baked and watch your bobbleheads.”
“What’s wrong with that? People turn to different things to find shelter from the commotion of life.”
“I guess. It’s no worse than losers who play video games all day.”
“How flattering. Thank you.”
“Do you do this with other guys or is it a solitary thing?”
“Take three deep breaths. It’s important to relax before you see them.”
“I’m looking right at them.”
“But they aren’t bobbling yet. Take a deep breath and hold it. Let it out slowly.” He flicks a switch on the wall. Cabinet lighting bathes the bobbles in blue neon. “I want you to imagine you’re drifting down a stream of clear water beneath a pale blue sky.”
“What does this have to do with big-headed baseball dolls?”
“First of all, as the presentation will demonstrate, there is not a single sports doll. Not one. Second, I might be exhibiting these at a Bay View art gallery. I’ll have to introduce them several times a day. I need practice. Do you think I’d let people walk up and paw them, let children put their sticky fingers on them? Maybe I shouldn’t bother.”
“Maybe you should pitch this to Cirque du Soleil.”
“Watch the sky change colors. Dark blue. Darker.” He turns on the vibrating dumbbell. His subjects nod like a coliseum of hydrocephalic dwarfs. “Watch them shimmy. Relax. Let your eyes slip out of focus so they look blurry. Blurry like a cloud. Can you see any faces in the cloud?”
“Who do you see?”
“Good, very good. Take a deep breath. Let it out. What color are her eyes?”
“Are you sure?”
“You’re seeing the sky behind the cloud, that’s why. Just like when you look into the eyes of the blue-eyed man. He is as temporary as a cloud, but the sky behind him remains. Do you understand?”
“I’ve never understood anything less in my entire life.”
“That’s okay. We don’t know anything for certain. That’s why we have instincts. Yours are telling you the current is moving in circles. Look at the cloud being blown by the wind, molded by it. What does it look like now?”
“Count Chocula — No, Franken Berry.”
“Are you afraid of monsters?”
“Monsters aren’t real.”
“Very good. None of the faces are. Only the sky behind them is. There are no individual monsters. What color are Franken Berry’s eyes?”
“That’s because you’re seeing the sky behind the cloud. Just like when you look into the eyes of the blue-eyed man. The sky is a permanent mind watching you, thinking about you, judging you from behind many passing manifestations. Do you understand?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“That’s good. The wind is getting stronger. You’re spinning faster. Are you dizzy?”
“A little. I’m afraid of drowning.”
“Look down at your feet. It’s a whirlpool. Look how fast the horizon is spinning.” She shrieks. Duncan sips his beer and smiles. “Watch your cloud. Which one are you seeing?”
“Very good. Look at Boo Berry. Look at his eyes. Think of the blue behind them and the mind of the blue-eyed man and what the mind wants. Then the terrible spinning will stop.”
“What does the mind of the blue-eyed man want?” she pleads.
He picks up a book and opens it to a page bookmarked by a cigar band. Some sentences are highlighted, others crossed out in red as though stabbed. “He wants you to remember a simple phrase. Then he wants you to forget it until you hear it again. Can you do that?”
“The current is slowing down. What does your cloud look like now?”
“The Great Gazoo.”
“What color are his eyes?”
“And why is that?”
“Because that’s the sky behind the cloud.”
“And the sky is the mind of the blue-eyed man. So deep and blue. So blue and deep.”
“The sky is the mind of the blue-eyed man,” she says. “The sky is the mind of the blue-eyed man.”
“Excellent. Look into the blue of his eyes. A blissful calm washes over you like you just had an orgasm. You’re not tired but you’ve never felt more peaceful in your life. Do you like this calm?”
“It’s like ecstasy.”
“Ecstasy the drug or the many states of being squeezed into that concept?”
“Would you like to feel this way all the time?”
“I couldn’t drive or go to work.”
“How about feeling like this more often?”
“It’s not worth the effort. Guys resent constructive criticism. It makes them self-conscious. I learned my lesson. Accept what you get or move on.”
“This won’t involve the Pavlovian manipulation of inept boyfriends. Are you interested?”
“Then listen very, very carefully.”
I, Petronius Jablonski, scholar and philanthropist, do hereby solemnly swear to NEVER again use the foul, twisted Deep Dream program to ruin good pictures.
The Reader interested in Epiphenomenalism should read this. It’s potential relevance to The Sweetness of Honey and bobbleheads and everything is obvious only in hindsight.
“If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that. I’ll live my life or I’ll end my life with this project.” Herzog
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The rueful admission echoes down serpentine catacombs deep in your mind, waving a torch through long-buried chambers inscribed with crayon hieroglyphics: you’re staring up at the diving board with dread during a swimming lesson; you’re playing hide and seek in your grandparent’s musty basement; you’re debating whether to shoplift and you know the clerk knows what you’re thinking; you’re kissing and you’re sure you’re doing it wrong and wondering if she knows you know she knows.
You’ve been robbed. Those times, where did they go? Once so alive but now hidden in a mass grave. And that’s where the future ones are headed. Remember that. All the days to come will vanish thus. What value or meaning can they contain? We are hoarders of dust.
Maestoso floats toward you like a submarine by Louis Wain, the thin black lips on his alligator jaws pressed together in a sardonic smile, whiskers twitching, his eyes not the perceptual organs of a unique being but portholes to the world of imperishable abstractions where modus ponens and the prime nature of three and five will survive the heat death of the universe and you’ve never been so grateful to have a cat.
In the Temple of 11,111,117 Holes a novice lights a torch and enters the gaping mouth of the cave and the holes consume him. Each step requires great effort as though against a strong wind or into a place of great danger, its nature unknown and perhaps unknowable. In the center he stands and takes deep breaths before looking up into the millions of black eyes watching him, dissolving him.
This is when the greatest fortitude is required. Many before him lost their nerve, never to return, not free of emptiness but haunted by it. He regards the thin membrane separating one hole from another, its nebulous and transitory nature, as if existence is less substantial than nothingness. Paradoxes and riddles overwhelm the feeble abacus behind his eyes.
Some monks use a walking stick to steady trembling knees and accommodate greater depths of thought. Others criticize the practice, saying the holes would never give a monk more than he could tolerate, that to artificially enhance indulgences is a crime against nature. Brethren of the Stick say it is more unnatural to ascribe intentions to the holes. A third group dismisses both on the grounds that naturalness has never been established as a criterion of contemplation.
Why Proust? It’s the sorcerous powers of description. You don’t need to keep a flow chart of the characters or study the Dreyfus affair. You want to read how the moon in the afternoon sky is like a beautiful actress who sneaks into the audience to watch a portion in which she does not have to appear. Virginia Wolfe said the best thing about life is reading Proust. That ignores some conspicuous contenders, but he’s the only writer who cracks the top five. There’s only one way it could be improved and you don’t have to feel like a Philistine for saying this.
Some say Fate cannot be fought, that it is entrapping as quicksand, omnipresent as the ether. Notice how the cleverest excuses and slipperiest arguments are used in defense of cowardice. Through capitulation to routine man dies an ignoble death long before his mortal coil makes it official. He forgets he is living. Combat is the supreme reminder. What is that putrid stench? Is it not the rot of man’s spirit, the smell of lies told to assuage the failure of those too craven to fight, smoke wafting from the languid den of routine addicts? To wage war against Fate one must locate the most auspicious outpost and launch an attack. That fortress is Mount Silenus. A battle calls. Warrior, arise.
Towering over you, a geological Rorschach absorbing the frustrations and dreams of a new species of ant chasing the wind up its sides, the 50,000,000-year-old distention of rock recently nicknamed Mount Silenus endures, aroused from the sleep of nothing by the same Source that concocted man, remaining at the orgy of existence on the same invitation. And when man is gone, regardless of how many crept across its sides, it will endure just the same, until it doesn’t.
The gloomy, taciturn Dr. Harris, glaring at us through bifocals and removing them to intensify his sulphurous gaze, stroked his unkempt beard and shook his head when we proposed a joint independent study titled, A History of the Cudahy Taverns: Packard Avenue. We returned the following day to plead our case, wielding the deadly argument that his dismissive reference to Cudahy as “some small, blue-collar abutment of Milwaukee” was no less contemptuous than describing the Temiar of Malaysia (his dissertation subject) as a group of uninteresting savages with absurd religious beliefs. A twenty-minute session of furious beard stroking ensued, probably infested by the realization that we had actually perused his dreadful, meandering doorstop.
Purple People, seated under the purple lights in the Phil Zone like surfers of an eruption, we envy you on 12-31-80, the first Estimated Prophet of 81 and last of 80, the metaphysical glue of their connection. Focus on Phil during the Jam until some Helen Keller awakening shatters the shell of your mind and reveals to the stunned hatching within a world beyond all wonder. The intrinsic peculiarity of the song is never covered by the gray blanket of familiarity wrapping most things. It’s as different and mysterious and off-the-wall and triumphant and creepy as the first time you heard it.
Why are there no paralegals moonlighting as Grim Reapers, no librarians driven to carnage by inquiries about Dan Brown? Security fields a disproportionate number of the empathy challenged. Practitioners of this noble calling succumb to dark nights of the soul, wondering if the property they defend requires blood to sustain its existence. Why is it always the loners? What happens in the cold vacuum of solitude, time spent with the ultimate stranger? Consider ten instances of this cruel occupational hazard and wonder why “going rent-a-cop” never joined the lexicon.
An Odyssey of Historic Proportions & Priceless Treasure of Philosophy unveils the paradigm-shattering contributions of Petronius’ Shovel©, Petronius’ Blender©, Schadenfreude Before-the-Fact©, the Mushroom of Consciousness©, Quietude©, and Petronius’ Garage©. They take their rightful place in the pantheon above Occam’s dull Razor, Plato’s much-ballyhooed Cave, Aristotle’s overrated Golden Mean, and Russel’s leaky Teapot. (Also includes a blistering critique of the Phoenix legend).
“[R]eads like a surreal existentialist crisis, a stream-of-consciousness narrative that employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force.” Publishers Weekly
Just as William of Occam gave philosophy his Razor (undeniably useful but somewhat overrated), I hereby contribute my Shovel. This tool will prove to be as easy to use as its namesake. An example of it in action will serve as a good first approach to understanding it.
Now, by what criterion are things considered strange or normal? According to the regularity by which they occur, one might respond. Unfortunately, by this standard a halo above a car is quite peculiar and the strangeness vs. normalcy of a great many things becomes a relativistic mishmash. But this is the mere surface of this issue. A true philosopher feels instinctively that the line separating them is, to an enormous extent (if not altogether), arbitrary or illusory. But how can he dig straight to the root of this quandary, to penetrate the imaginary surface and demonstrate the chimerical nature of the distinction for the common man to see?
“Is the halo stranger than the existence of life itself?” the philosopher asks.
“Certainly not. What can be stranger than that?” comes the reply from any man with the barest semblance of cognition. “Explanations of life, its origin and purpose, always seem inadequate, as though nothing could feasibly constitute an answer, as though the question is a gasp of dismay, not a serious inquiry. I’d rather not think about it. Isn’t there a ballgame on?”
“Absolutely not,” comes the reply from even a business student. “That’s the most peculiar and disturbing fact there is.” Rubbing his temples he cries, “My mind is awhirl. Bring me a video game. I beg you.”
“And so,” the philosopher concludes, washing off my faithful Shovel, his labor at an end, “the halo is not really strange. Compared to the existence of life, which we see every day, it is perfectly banal. Compared to the existence of everything, it is more akin to a sleeping pill than a mystery. Rather than giving it a pejorative label and running about in a tizzy, it is simply a matter of getting used to it.”
“Agreed,” chime the man with the barest semblance of cognition and his comrade, the business student. “Let’s all compare cell phones.”
Now, far from being a mere principle or abstract utility (like Occam’s much-ballyhooed Razor), my Shovel has the unlimited potential for practical, everyday applications. In fact, as the Reader is about to behold, it saved my life, holding my wits together in the face of what a non-philosophic mind would have deemed unbearably strange.
Regarding Quietude, the telos of the New Stoicism: just as Aristotle gave philosophy his Golden Mean, I hereby contribute my Blender, by means of which the profoundest ideas can be mixed and pureed to produce original and superior recipes. This watershed, which the steely eyes of history may very well deem superior to Aristotle’s much-ballyhooed scale, will be elucidated in graspable increments. Regarding Quietude: while the precise recipe shall remain a secret, it contains ingredients from Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Monadology. The name is from the ancient Skeptics (who should have chosen a more accurate description of their uncertain comforts). Through the use of my ingenious, innovatory Blender, these constituents have been combined to create a bold new flavor. Quietude, as I am using the term, is both an original and significant contribution to philosophy.
Is it an Eastern or Western conception?
A messenger with joyous tidings, I unveiled a concept onion-like in its manifold layers, yet sweet in its succor. Quietude is not akin to a two-by-four. I cannot pummel the Reader into understanding it. A good philosopher relies on the time-tested methods of gradual exposure and the use of context clues. My approach shall be as halcyon as Quietude herself.
Mount Silenus, Destroyer of Illusions
“A surreal existentialist crisis” Publishers Weekly
“The mountain is nothing more than an extra hilly hill,” you say, cringing. “I was letting a word freak me out. If you don’t tame their power they control you.”
Positive thinking is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of hubris and stupidity. Try taming cyanide. The perils inherent to things exist independent of our descriptions and attitudes. Wolverines for instance. And Oxycodone. And mountains.
You walk on. Silenus grows faster than you’d expect given your cautious pace, as if clawing at you. An abstraction flickers to life: 20% of climbers take up permanent residence here, which means hundreds of breathing, eating, farting, laughing, beer-drinking, poker-playing men DIED here. They forever ceased and desisted from breathing, eating, farting, laughing, drinking beer, and playing poker courtesy of what you’re about to commence. These were not suicides. They were trying every inch of the way to avoid this irreversible and often unpleasant transformation. Then what happens? Welcome to the concrete reality of this question.
The clouds expand and diminish and the sky sheds a grimy exoskeleton to reveal an orange heart pulsing within a vast creature of which you are a mere cell. The sun pools on the snow like orange juice.
The sun, what is it?
In all your meanderings and voyages you’ve never stopped and gawked at the bone-chilling peculiarity of this. Is the existence of Existence humdrum and self-explanatory, or do these questions open empty chambers no free samples from Dr. Schlotski can fill?
Based on a disastrous attempt
And you, what are you, and where? That mysterious theatre behind your eyes and between your ears, what perpetuates its dynamism?
“I’ll tackle it tomorrow when the weather’s nicer. I need to get an earlier start. Timing is of the essence.”
In a world where no consensus exists on its creation, who can say with certainty that guzzling champagne in the bath is not the greatest accomplishment in life? Return to your kingdom. Silenus will wait.
A Vertical Odyssey of Extraordinary Peril began as therapy for Post-Traumatic Mountaineering Disorder (PTMD). Some events never recede on the horizon of Time. Dismissing them as the past is wishful thinking. That they occurred before other things is a trivial property, incidental and irrelevant to the sovereignty they wield. Jablonski filled hard drives with descriptions & analyses of what happened, then projected it into the eyes of characters spanning centuries.
GIWWPN found Celtic Consciousness in likely places. Turn on, plug in, pass out, and see how it’s clovers all the way down. In 2017, GIWWPN considered Mount Silenus: A Vertical Odyssey of Extraordinary Peril as one of two finalists. In 2018 they awarded the coveted Genius Fellowship Grant to Petronius Jablonski “not for previous art but as an investment in his future.”
GIWWPN acknowledges the greatest playwright since Shakespeare. To the Irish, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a comedy about a functional family. (Seeking info about the production with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Any bootlegs?)
GIWWPN celebrates the greatest novel ever writ, Tristram Shandy, Joyce’s ladder, Schopenhauer‘s favorite: “A novel will be of a high and noble order, the more it represents of inner, and the less it represents of outer, life; and the ratio between the two will supply a means of judging any novel, of whatever kind, from Tristram Shandy down to the crudest and most sensational tale of knight or robber. Tristram Shandy has, indeed, as good as no action at all; and there is not much in La Nouvelle Heloïse and Wilhelm Meister. Even Don Quixote has relatively little; and what there is, very unimportant, and introduced merely for the sake of fun. And these four are the best of all existing novels.”
GIWWPN trips on experimental fiction because we Irish invented it. Visit the Post-modern afterlife in The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.
GIWWPN places Maeve Brennan in the same pantheon as Chekhov. Why haven’t you read her?
GIWWPN finds prophetic descriptions of modern Academia in Gulliver’s Travels: Cucumber Studies.
GIWWPN reveres a visionary. He was deeper than we’ve been led to suppose.