Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Appealing or Cheating?

There is something appealing about a blank, colourless Rubik's cube. No matter how it is twisted and turned, it is successfully completed. Or is it?

If Rubik's cube is about aligning the colours, is having all the colours the same cheating? Or, is there another word for this?

Perhaps, even when there is just a single colour, one should still return to some putative starting position in order for  'completion' to be claimed. Which starting position though? The one that the cube had when it came out of the box or some other - the one at the start of that day's twisting, perhaps? How would one know either of these things?

Also, is there, I wonder, another arrangement of the colours so that two or three sides have the same colour and there is more than one solution. That is, more than one way of getting to, what I have called above, the 'starting position'? In which case, it would be a "getting to" rather than a "getting back to". So, has it been completed or not?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Unattributed quotes

The thing about unattributed quotes is that one can only look at the words; the reputation of the person who made the comment is out of the question. Thus, somebody you don't like and who would have normally been dismissed out of hand can be allowed to say something that you consider to be wise and meaningful. You are allowing yourself to benefit from the thought conveyed alone and not letting your prejudices to get in the way. With that in mind, here are some more.

"There are things to see but more importantly things to think."

"If you were somebody else, would you be jealous of who you are?"

"He was, what they call, a 'self-made man'. Had he known where all the bits belonged, he would have made a much better man of himself."

"I have successfully avoided the burdens and distractions of success by avoiding the attainment of what others erroneously think success to be."

Friday, 17 April 2015

Drawing from Epictetus

I recently read 'The Golden Sayings of Epictetus' (translated by Hastings Crossley), an electronic copy of which I found at Project Gutenberg. A number of the sayings I found interesting and thought-provoking and so made a note of them. I thought that I would begin sharing them.

But God hath introduced Man to be a spectator of Himself and of His works; and not a spectator only, but also an interpreter of them. Wherefore it is a shame for man to begin and to leave off where the brutes do. Rather he should begin there, and leave off where Nature leaves off in us: and that is at contemplation, and understanding, and a manner of life that is in harmony with herself. See then that ye die not without being spectators of these things.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Unreadable Books

Not long ago, I visited an independent library. I had a very enjoyable time. As well as enjoying the atmosphere, I found a number of nineteenth books about subjects in which I am interested. It was particularly interesting to see how these subjects were treated in the past - not least by amateurs. For example, I came across Philip Henry Gosse's Evenings at the Microscope (or, researches among the minuter organs and forms of animal life) which approached microscopy in a very different way to that I encounter nowadays.

There was one book I happened upon which was published in 1887. I don't remember its title or its author. I know that it was not about a subject in which I am particularly interested but for some reason it caught my attention and I took it down to have a look. What was most memorable - more so than either its title or its author - was the fact that it cannot have ever been read. That is, that particular copy could never have been read. The pages of this book were left ragged and uncut as was often the case back then. Significantly, the folds along the top edges of the pages had not been cut either meaning that the pages could not be fully opened and could not therefore be seen in their entirety.

This has got me wondering about the point of a book that cannot be read. It may have value as a collectors item. Being largely unopened, it must be in almost pristine condition. It may even have value as a curio; an unreadable book. There was a book plate in the front with an inscription naming who had given this book to the library. He may well have been a collector who have donated this book from his collection. He certainly could not have been a reader of the subject matter of that book given the impossibility of opening the pages.

So, is there any point to an unreadable book? And what of a library with an unreadable book? Or, a library of (nothing but) unreadable books? If a library is going to have one on its shelves why not any number of such books? Why not an entire library of them? A library in which none of the books can be read must still be a library, by definition, or is it? Is a library primarily a repository of books or of the ideas within them?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The goodly fere to this day

On this Easter Sunday, the closing lines from Ezra Pound's poem 'The Ballad of the Goodly Fere' seem appropriate:

If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.

The full text of the poem can be found at First published in 1909, it was a poem written as a deliberate contrast to the somewhat unmanly depictions of Christ that can be found in art and literature even to this day; a style that may be summed-up in the often pejoratively used phrase 'gentle Jesus meek and mild'. The title of the poem is, in effect, 'The Ballad of Our Good Mate'.