Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Kingdom for a Horse!

If a person loses their glasses, how do they find them? This simple question creates conundrums that may lead all the way to the unification theory Einstein spent a lifetime trying to resolve—without success, it should be noted. How to relate the microcosm to the macrocosm, the forces affecting quanta—the smallest particles that scientists are seeking to discover in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider—to those involved in cosmic events like the Big Bang?

But let’s return to the simple pair of glasses left in a health food restaurant by a man in late middle-age who is still tormented by the infamous Twilight Zone episode in which the Burgess Meredith character, only wanting to be left alone with his books, cracks his glasses, and, in a world devoid of people but chock-full of reading material, is left unable to read. The discovery that the glasses may be tantalizingly within reach yet impossible to find unleashes a host of singularities that epitomize the Sisyphean nature of the human project. How many words are left stranded on the tip of the tongue? How many things that could have been said in a crucial moment of adversity are left unsaid as the mind goes blank? The internal dialogue following such dumbstruck episodes is astonishing in its eloquence, and in the facility with which derisive language is conjured up.

Outside the health food restaurant, wives and friends are waiting, cabs come and go, and the hands grow sweaty as they sweep the table top, the leather seat cushion, the stained and polyurethaned wood floor. But nothing is to be found. Glasses are uncomplicated objects, seemingly easy to replace. Certainly losing glasses is nothing like the loss of a kidney or a breast, and yet it is impossible for our hero to pull himself away from his search. Just one more minute and the world can be set aright. Those who care about him are growing impatient. What is it the blind man is seeking?  Plainly, it is not simply a pair of glasses. Why is this so hard to understand?

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