Saturday, September 11, 2004
What It Is About This Place
"You know what it is about this place that bugs me?" Grisha Perelman says. He's just been telling me how he's a mathematician, solved one of the Clay Mathematics Institute's Millennium Puzzles, was in line for a million bucks when he got raptured or whatever out of there. Ain't that always the way, he sighed.
"No," I say, "what is it about this place?"
"No perspective. Parallel lines don't meet at the horizon."
"Oh," I say, dim memories of high school physics rousing themselves feebly, "that kind of perspective."
"Right. It's like a medieval painting. Everything is right there in your face, demanding precisely the same kind of attention as everything else."
"And that bugs you, huh?" I'm just making polite conversation. Talking about math beats listening to Herakleitos. Sort of.
"What bugs me about it," Grisha says, "is that I can't figure it out. I can't parse it. It's a whole new math. I'm going to have to retrain myself up here."
"What makes you think it's 'up'?" I say idly.
"Exactly!" he cries. "That's just what I'm talking about! A whole new topology! What did you say you did on earth?"
"Writer," I say.
"Science writer?" he says hopefully.
I shake my head apologetically. "Blogger," I say.
He sighs. His eyes scan the cookout for someone more interesting to talk to. I'm thinking the same thing. I haven't heard from Mullah Billdoug in whatevers. And where's Bill, for god's sakes?
Just then I see something very strange--something I haven't seen since I arrived here.
It's a cloud. It isn't exactly floating; it's more accurately stumbling across the clear green sky, heading right toward us.
"Ba'al?" Yahweh calls, one eye uneasily on the sky.
Everybody looks around for Ba'al. We finally locate him, up in the power boat, under the tarp. First his head pokes out, then Ann Coulter's.
"Can't this wait?" he says.
"Look up," Yahweh says. Ba'al does. Ann Coulter does. I'm looking at Ann Coulter: her shoulders are bare. "That your cloud, Ba'al?" Yahweh says.