Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Point

“What you think is the point is not the point at all but only the beginning of the sharpness.”
                                                           Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman 
  Over the weekend it came to my notice that the priesthood of another faith transmutes the crime of sexual abuse of minors into the gold of eternal redemption thus, by taking the sins of the children upon their own shoulders in each act of Herodian infant-raping sodomy.  Christ-like, as they would have it.  And they do, in their multitudes.
  Sethren, I wouldn’t go that far myself, but it is thus that, though wine is allowed to you, and beer and any natural fermentation of the fruits and seeds of the good earth, fortified wine, and particulalry Port of any vintage, we must utterly desist from.  Let me assure you that I know this from bitter experience.  Fret not.  It will be another sacrifice from which we can derive strength, courage, fortitude, and the will to go on. As to yesterday's absence, I would have contacted you on my mobile phone but somehow it no longer seems to be with me.  If any of you know of any good sources of such phones, with miraculous contracts which seem, like the charity of heaven, to be without charge or end, perhaps we could have a word afterwards.
  And now, sethren back to other demons, demons of the better sort, demons who do not tempt us to sup from two glasses at the same time.  So far we have toyed with the idea that a demon is the irreducible meaning of a distributed existence which differentiates it from all other irreducible meanings.  That, you will say, doesn’t give much for the mind to bite on.  So let us take a demon, and sit it on the head of a pin.  Not literally.  Without going further, we know that a demon is not a thing which can in any sense sit.  Or stand.  Or fly.  Okay.
  Let us take a thing, but a very small thing.  Let us take a point.  A point with which your finger may be pricked.  A point which may draw blood.  A point is a most thingy thing.  You know exactly how it feels.  You know, practically to a molecule, where it is.  And yet you cannot see it, as that greatest of philosophers Flann O'Brian (or he may be better know to you as Brian Ó Nualláin, or there again Myles na gCopaleen, but anyway, he,) demonstrates at some length in The Third Policeman.  Sure, you can see the matter that exists upstream as it were from the point (as it might be of a needle).  And you can see the empty air that exists in the other direction.  But the precise point is not visible, at least not to the naked eye.
  So a point has these properties.  It is thingy (it pricks), but it is invisible.  And I say to you (though not with absolute confidence) that it is irreducible as a meaning.  I don’t of course here imply that it is irreducible as to its properties (stiffness, softness, bluntability, geometry and so on), or its substance (steel, titanium, wood, diamond, gold).  I mean irreducible as to its meaning.  That, I believe, is irreducible.  And to show that, let us take something very close to a point, and then look at the difference.  Let us take an edge.  Not any old edge, like a cliff edge, or the edge of reason.  A very specific edge with a very specific meaning.  The edge of a blade.  The linearity that is equivalent to the pointiness of a point.  Again very thingy.  Take a blade of surgical steel, the one with which a surgeon may slice through the heavy skin with a single stroke as the first stage of a journey into the interior.  Imagine placing this pristine edge lightly upon the palm of your hand and moving it, still lightly but steadily, to the place below you little finger.  Whereas the prick of a point produced a dot of blood, here you will find a line of welling red.  The edge of a blade is nothing more nor less than a linear point.  Just look at the blood upon the palm for confirmation.
  So a point is an irreducible locus of meaning, differentiated from the edge of the blade by a single dimension, and further in meaning than that from the hook, the thorn, the fang, the prick (that organ of Divine Penetration in the eyes of the Curia, which will soon choose another representative of God on earth), the barb, the lithic arrowhead and so on.
  But distributed about the metaverse a point has other existences, mutates into other demons.  It is part of a Euclidean axiom, or two parts, being the two points that a straight line is the distance between.  It is multiple in the points of the compass, it can be anything one is trying to emphasise; or a crucial function, or adjectivally can describe a remark of, counter-intuitively, cruel bluntness.  Nothing, not even the point demon, can remain pure and isolated, for demons, though they are a locus, are set in a material continuum across the universe.
  But I see the accustomed glazedness.  And MadamMeMe’sMagicMeatyBits has not pitched up today.  Is there a rank whiff of the descendants of Equus ferus caballus on the benzine-scented breeze.  You will have to forage for you protein slurry in town, my dears.  Same time tomorrow.  Off you go.

No comments: