Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Poem of the Day

Yesterday two young gentlemen callers appeared at my door with a Book of Mormon in hand and asked if they might prepare me for baptism on May 17, to which I could only reply "Oh, definitely not. I do not enjoy bathing." I now repent me of it.

If I had not been so occupied doing absolutely nothing I might have asked them in and invited them to remove their shirts and ties along with any other articles of clothing that might have discomfited them in their door-to-door mission to see if we might come together on religion. Henceforth my rule shall be "Carpe Mormonem," as the visitations of young gentleman callers to my door have become as rare as appearances of the Virgin Mary—which is not to say never, but less often than I would like.

Perhaps I was feeling a bit addled, as I had just read Dr. Stanley Fish's review in the NY Times (see "God Talk") of Terry Eagleton's "Reason, Faith and Revolution." Dr. Fish, who according to his bio is a Distinguished Professor of This, That and The Other, found the book compelling in its defense of "faith"—any faith—but noted the angry tone of the later chapters. Dr. Fish wonders that the earlier chapters are quite witty and conjectures that Mr. Eagleton wrote the later chapters first. I do not know why Dr. Fish resorted to this deus ex machina for explanation, since I have always found wit and anger to be perfectly compatible in any order you choose.

In any event, the review was just the sort of thing the Times needs to maintain a readership in these troubling days. Some 700 readers had left comments, of which I was saved from reading by the advent of the angelic Mormons.

So instead of attempting to shout above the noise I have decided to place a quiet poem here in response.

R.D. Laing did not call this writing a 'poem'; he called it a 'Knot.' But if it is not a poem it points to a poem that points to a 'Not,' or Void.

It is, loosely and mathematically speaking, a construction: Let there be an object (your self or a universe, say). Call it a finger. Let there be an operation associated with the finger. Call it pointing. The value of a finger pointing is not the finger. Call it the moon. Let that be the value of the pointing. Let 'point' be a synonym of 'moon.' Thus the pointing of the finger is the point.1

a finger points to the moon
Put the expression
   a finger points to the moon, in brackets
   (a finger points to the moon)
The statement:
   'A finger points to the moon is in brackets'
is an attempt to say that all that is in the bracket ()
is, as to that which is not in the bracket,
what a finger is to the moon
Put all possible expressions in brackets
Put all possible forms in brackets
and put the brackets in brackets
Every expression, and every form,
is to what is expressionless and formless
what a finger is to the moon
all expressions and all forms
point to the expressionless and formless

   as finger to moon
   so form to formless
   as finger is to moon

[all possible expressions, forms, propositions,
  including this one, made or yet to be made,
  together with the brackets]

   are to

What an interesting finger
   let me suck it
It's not an interesting finger
   take it away

The statement is pointless
The finger is speechless



1With my most humble and sincere apologies to the spirit of G. Spencer-Brown. [back]

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Factoid of the Day: A spurt in consumer spending

There are three areas where consumer spending has increased. Guns. Condoms. And alcohol. —Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, as quoted by Joe Nocera in "Same Data, Conflicting Forecasts"

These must be the "green shoots" that Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Bernanke and the financial press have seen sprouting in parched fields and dank doorways.


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