Thursday, September 24, 2009

I just saw the movie Pi

for the first time.
It was great until the last fourth or so, which
got a little too crazy, which I guess is the very point,
or one of them.

The mumbo-jumbo with the numbers is fascinating
on its own, the suspicion that there is an order
in nature, in reality, that can be found in
numbers, that numbers are somehow a part of nature,
that there is order in everything if we know how to
look, the suspicion that there is a key in numbers
that can unlock the mystery of life, or express
it, the idea that the true name of God is 216 letters

Although the spirit in which we look for the solution
to these mysteries seems finally to be the real key

I would have very likely been living a life of
numbers instead of words had my father not died
when he did, when I was young, just turned 13.
13 years & 13 days, as a matter of fact. He was a
scientist, a mathematician, engineer in aeronautics.
And I was already headed up the same road. I might
have even been into defense contracting eventually,
as he was at North American Aviation.

The summer he died he went to Brussels for some global
conclave of aeronautical types, and I put together
a scrapbook of photographs of missiles & rockets
I had cut out of his Aviation Weeks, with pertinent
data alongside--size, payload, range. He had dozens
of scientists who attended sign the book for me. I
don't know where that might be today.

After he died I continued to think I would be
something of the same sort as him, because I was
good in math, it came easy. I dug it up to algebra, but
then hit trigonometry & said to myself, this ain't
fun no more, and there wasn't anybody around to push me
where I didn't care to go, if he would have.

It wasn't really until I went away to college at 17 &
had no friends that I started to write--letters back
home to family & friends, writing entirely different types
of letters & using disparate parts of my personality when
I wrote to my mom, sisters, guy friends, girl friend.
Communication is a problem, or a need, and the secret is
finding the way to get out what's inside in a way that
will unlock & awaken myself & inspire somebody else. But
how to find that way that is like nobody else. Fingerprints
are all so almost alike, but every one entirely different.
Like that, only writing, words, not swirls in skin, but
swirls in sentences.

Words offer the same temptation as numbers in a way,
the same suspicion that you will be able to put them
together in a certain particular way that will turn the
key that will open reality, that will explain or describe
it all, or a part of it in such a way that has never been
seen or heard before, that gives the idea or sensation that
it has all been explained or described or pointed to without

With numbers there is the added suspicion that the answer
is either there or not, either right or wrong. That's what
I liked about Pi, that the closer you get, the crazier it
makes you. I read a story about Bobby Fischer's madness the
other day & thought something along the same lines. I told
my wife tonight, watching PI, that I wished I were more
eccentric. She said not to worry about it.

Words offer the same enchanting promise, that there is one
perfect way to put each sentence, each paragraph, story,
book, poem, line, phrase. And there is, in a sense, in this
one moment, because the sentence is alive and what's perfect
today will grow into something differently perfect later,
when I'm a better writer, or in a different mood. It's like
trimming a tree so it's perfect, today.

So, the guy in Pi (SPOILER COMING!), after chasing the numbers
rainbow, ends up nuts & puts a hole in his head with an electric
drill, a somewhat extreme approach to letting off some
pressure from figuring out the universe, but apparently it
didn't do him too much damage, because while he can no longer
perform big multiplication tricks in his head (or simply doesn't
care to anymore), at least he enjoys the playful presence of a
little child & the leaves turning & trembling in the sun & wind
for the first time.

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Richard Thomas said...

Great movie. Wild, but good. Have you seen BRAZIL? Looking forward to your book. Any word?


Richard Martin.... said...

Hey, Richard. I've seen Brazil, more than once, but it didnt have this psychic effect that Pi had on me. Maybe because simple things get to me more the older I get. Not that Pi's simple, but it's simpler than Brazil. It's just a guy, his computer, and a few other characters. Yes, he's trying to figure out The Secret, but the terms of the search itself somehoe feel simple to me. It just got to me, except when it came apart at the end, like so many movies/stories do. Endings are the hardest part.... As for the book, it's December, latest I heard, although I heard other things before that, so ... Patience is the only virtue, from which all other virtues spring, or crawl.... Thanks for the comment!