November 10, 2003

Readings from Murakami and Eco

Posted by shonk at 01:52 AM in Words of Wisdom | TrackBack

A few nuggets from Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and Eco's The Island of the Day Before:

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, pgs. 284-5:

"No, it isn't. There's no time to tautologies. That's the difference between tautologies and dreams. Tautologies are instantaneous, everything is revealed at once. Eternity can actually be experienced. Once you set up a closed circuit, you just keep spinnin' 'round and 'round in there. That's the nature of tautologies. No interruptions like with dreams. It's like the encyclopedia wand."

"The encyclopedia wand?" I was evolving into an echo.

"The encyclopedia wand's a theoretical puzzle, like Zeno's paradox. The idea is t'engrave the entire encyclopedia onto a single toothpick. Know how you do it?"

"You tell me."

"You take your information, your encyclopedia text, and you transpose it into numerics. You assign everything a two-digit number, periods and commas included. 00 is a blank, A is 01, B is 02, and so on. Then after you've lined them all up, you put a decimal point before the whole lot. So now you've got a very long sub-decimal fraction. 0.173000631... Next, you engrave a mark at exactly that point along the toothpick. If 0.50000's your exact middle on the toothpick, then 0.3333's got t'be a third of the way from the tip. You follow?"


"That's how you can fit data of any length in a single point on a toothpick. Only theoretically, of course. No existin' technology can actually engrave so fine a point. But this should give you a perspective on what tautologies are like. Say time's the length of your toothpick. The amount of information you can pack into it doesn't have anything t'do with the length. Make the fraction as long as you want. It'll be finite, but pretty near eternal. Though if you make it a repeatin' decimal, why, then it is eternal. You understand what that means? The problem's the software, no relation to the hardware. It could be a toothpick or a two-hundred-meter timber or the equator - doesn't matter. Your body dies, your consciousness passes away, but your thought is caught in the one tautological point an instant before, subdividin' for an eternity. Think about the koan: An arrow is stopped in flight. Well, the death of the body is the flight of the arrow. It's makin' a straight line for the brain. No dodgin' it, not for anyone. People have t'die, the body has t'fall. Time is hurlin' that arrow forward. And yet, like I was sayin', thought goes on subdividin' that time for ever and ever. The paradox becomes real. The arrow never hits."

"In other words," I said, "immortality."

"There you are. Humans are immortal in their thought. Though strictly speakin', not immortal, but endlessly, asymptotically close to immortal. That's eternal life."

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, pg. 345:

"I can tell Bob Dylan in an instant," she said.

"Because his harmonica's worse than Stevie Wonder?"

She laughed again. Nice to know I could still make someone laugh.

"No, I really like his voice," she said. "It's like a kid standing at the window watching the rain."

The Island of the Day Before, pg. 60:

"Sir," Saint-Savin replied, "the first quality of an honest man is contempt for religion, which would have us afraid of the most natural thing in the world, which is death; and would have us hate the one beautiful thing destiny has given us, which is life. We should rather aspire to heaven where only the planets have eternal bliss, receiving neither rewards nor condemnations, but enjoying merely their own eternal motion in the arms of the void. Be strong like the sages of ancient Greece and look at death with steady eye and no fear. Jesus sweated too much, awaiting it. Why should he have been afraid, for that matter, since he was going to rise again?"

The Island of the Day Before, pgs. 83-4:

"You cannot believe what you are saying."

"Well no. Hardly ever. But the philosopher is like the poet. The latter composes ideal letters for an ideal nymph, only to plumb with his words the depths of passion. The philosopher tests the coldness of his gaze, to see how far he can undermine the fortress of bigotry."