23 júlí 2009

Úr The System of the World

The first thing Princess Caroline saw every day, when she opened her eyes, parted her bed-curtains, and glanced toward her window to check the weather, was two intersecting stone walls of window-grid, marching off in an infinite logarithmic progression.

Merely seeing it would put Leibniz into a funk. What was only boring to Caroline was troubling to him, because he felt partly responsible. The Doctor had grown up in the aftermath of the Thirty Years' War when many towns did not have buildings at all - only ruins and shanties! The structures that survived were round-shouldered half-timbered things, as same and yet as various as a basket of apples. But the buildings of today were informed by geometry; which meant that each one betrayed the particular Idea of geometry that its architect had drilled on in school. A hundred years ago this might have meant parabolas, ellipses, surfaces of revolution, involutes and evolutes, and parallel curves. Now it meant Cartesian rectilinear coordinates - the cruel gridiron to which all of those soaring arcs had been lashed fast by the toiling algebraists. A plaything for hares had fallen among the tortoises. The non-helpless minority of Christendom - those who could read, who could travel, who were not starving - had (Leibniz brooded) got only the most superficial notion of what had been happening in Natural Philosophy and, rather than going to the trouble of actually understanding it, had fastened on to the Cartesian grid as a relic or fetish of enlightenment. A result was grid-buildings. Leibniz could not bear to look at them because more than anyone else he was responsible for Cartesian coordinates. He who had launched his career with an epiphany in a rose-garden! So he and Caroline tended to meet, not in the waffle iron of the Leine Schloß but out beyond the ramparts along the gently curving banks of the Leine, or at Sophie's garden.

- Neal Stephenson, The System of the World, bls. 320.

Svipað viðhorf kom fram í Cryptonomicon, og þá til póstmódernistanna sem fyrrum kærasta Randy og vinir hennar tilheyrðu. Það er fátt auðvirðilegra í bókum Stephensons en sá, sem skilur ekki eitthvað en lætur sem hann geri það.


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