Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Shape of the Shapeless, The Shapelessness of Shape

I think I've always been fascinated by numbers. Not in the ways mathematicians are fascinated by numbers, but by the shapes of numbers.

This week, the odometer in my car approached and then passed 100,000. As it did so, as numbers lined up in striking patterns, there were several almost magical moments for me:


Why magical? Because of the shapes, I think. Because out of the visually unremarkable sequences that lead to 097392 or earlier to 0769124, suddenly there are repetitions of such order and weight that they seem noteworthy.

Perhaps they even seem meaningful.

Not, of course, when I ponder what they mean: they don't mean anything. They won't reveal the philosopher's stone. They won't help me with my cooking. They don't tell me anything more than do the numbers 100152 or 098563, which are both indications of how many miles the car has put behind it since I drove it off the lot.

But they seem, they feel profound, profoundly different from the less well ordered numbers.

Slot machines have a similar fascination for me, doubled up by the fact that when the three red sevens appear in a row along the line the machine makes sounds and flashes and quarters or nickels come cascading out of the machine.

Along with casino owners who take advantage of my need for shapely sets of numbers, poets, novelists, and musicians all capture my imagination with orderly and repetitive sequences.

[the rest of the post is HERE]