Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, April 28, 2006


We watched Proof tonight. We had seen a stage production years ago, but this one was probably better. Some thoughts:
  • Near the end of the movie, Janet said, "I finally figured out why the character of the sister is so annoying to me. She looks like Hillary Clinton." As soon as she said it, I thought, "That was probably no accident."
  • The dramatic story in the play is not a patch on the real story of how Fermat's Last Theorem was solved. The Nova episode that documented the story was one of the most moving things I ever saw.
  • The only reason mathematics ever seemed dramatic is because it comes closest to capturing the sense of a quest for the truth. Even science can't compare . . . all that big clunky equipment, and messy involvement with the physical world and ambiguous data . . . it's so concrete and mundane, compared to the purity of intellect that is mathematics. The only other field that comes close is philosophy . . . and philosophy is equally fraught with ambiguity, and the shadings of psychology. Only mathematics has the brightness and hardness of Truth . . . which is why it is often (as in this movie) called to stand in for spirituality.
  • What I liked most about the movie was that the characters were not completely black/white in their motivations. They were 80/20 people: 80% good and true in their intentions, and 20% not-so-good or true. Katherine was mostly being the loving daughter, caring for aged and instable father . . . but she was also hiding from her destiny as a mathematician, afraid of going into the same "house" as her father. She is mostly sane . . . but the visions of her father makes you know she's definitely out there on the edge of sanity. Hal was mostly well-meaning in his attention to Katherine and her father's work; but that didn't stop Katherine from seeing into his ambitions and insecurities. Even Katherine's sister, who is as close as we come to a bad guy in this movie, really is trying to help her sister, misguided and shallow as her attempts may be.
  • Most of all, I loved the awe with which mathematics (again, a stand-in for spirituality) is approached. It is a perilous affair. Katherine longs for it, and at the same time dreads what it will do to her. We all long to see the Light . . . and dread it as well. Not for nothing do they call it "fear of the Lord."



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