Rawls' balls, I cannot do this non-weekend thing like I said I could. And now I can't even do the weekend thing like I said I could! The nice thing is that I can just say "seventy-hour work week", and know that I'm justified. The rotten thing is that there's actually a seventy-hour work week justifying it. Blargh.It is Friday, the fifth of May in the year 2000, the fifth day of the fifth month according to the Gregorian calendar. If not for the Leap Year, it would also be the 125th day of the year, or five cubed. Most of the world is looking forward to a pleasant spring weekend. This particular day is celebrated the world over for a wide variety of reasons that vary from place to place.So it turns out that the immune system is way the Hell more complicated than I thought it was. Also, I have been arguing on the internet, and that takes time away from studying things and writing about them. Hmm... need content...Well, Jack informed me of a book called The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel, which is exactly what it says on the tin. I want to write about that some time soon. Ebonmuse informed me of something which shall provide fuel for another 101IT entry, so I want to write about that, soon, too. And I didn't even cover clotting in my blood overview, so I'll have to squeeze that in somewhere, because it's complicated and interesting! But I haven't written anything about any of those yet. Blargh again.OK, so I guess it's time to bust out the, uh, "big guns". As foretold in the prophecy, I am working on another book, entitled Tabula Rasa: A Novel Approach to Epistemology. Here is the prologue, though it may become a foreword, I don't know. Enjoy!
In the United States of America, the Mexican victory against overwhelming French opposition at the Battle of Puebla is celebrated, though it is confused with Mexico's Independence Day in the minds of many Americans. Citizens of Puebla observe the holiday, but it is little recognized elsewhere in Mexico. Other war holidays include Patriots' Victory Day in Ethiopia, signifying the end of Italian occupation in 1941; and Liberation Day in both Denmark and the Netherlands, commemorating local defeats of German forces in 1945. In politics, Kyrgyzstan celebrates the seventh anniversary of adopting their first constitution after breaking free of the former Soviet Union; the Council of Europe celebrates the fifty-first anniversary of its founding; Albanians honor those who died for their nation's freedom with Martyrs' Day; and King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand looks back across half a century since his coronation, just six years shy of becoming Thailand's longest-reigning monarch. Familial celebrations are peculiarly abundant: Japan and South Korea observe Children's Day, Romania observes Men's Day, Senior Citizens' Day is observed in Palau, Indian descendants in Guyana celebrate the 1838 arrival of their ancestors to work on sugar plantations, and the ninth International Midwives' Day is observed thanks to the efforts of the International Confederation of Midwives.
The feast of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice is also held on this day, his beatification occurring in 1995 when Pope John Paul II officially recognized as a miracle the strange convalescence of one Kevin Ellison in 1976. Ellison, then nineteen, developed gangrene in his large intestine as a complication from an appendectomy. Five doctors agreed that Ellison's colon did not have enough healthy tissue to see him through the next two days, but after a priest gave a relic of Edmund Rice to the family to be placed by Ellison's bedside, there appeared quite a bit more healthy tissue in Ellison's colon, and he went on to a full recovery. Two competing explanations seem to offer themselves for our consideration: either five practicing doctors made an egregious error, or a dead man cured intestinal gangrene through the strategic placement of one of his Earthly knick-knacks. When confronted with the opportunity to believe in either serious magic or serious human error, the Pope chose to affirm a belief in magic. One cannot help but wonder whether such a mind places greater implicit trust in the powers of deities or doctors.
Other uncelebrated but nonetheless historic occurrences have also marked this day throughout history. In 1981, Bobby Sands died in prison, ending his 66-day hunger strike in a two-day coma. In 1961, Commander Alan Shepard became the first American in space, launched 115 miles into the sky during a fifteen-minute flight. In 1925, John Scopes was arrested for teaching the theory of evolution to public school children, the first of many legal absurdities wherein scientists would be forced to struggle against the forces of parental ignorance in order to have an overwhelming preponderance of evidence presented honestly to the next generation. And in 1955, when the fifth of May was in fact the 125th day of the year, Jonas Salk witnessed the 500,000th (that's a five followed by five zeroes) London vaccination against polio, less than one month after announcing his discovery. All those fives, while certainly prominent, are utterly meaningless, arising as they do from nothing more profound than the arbitrary counting conventions of our culture.
Such coincidences occur regularly throughout history - roll six dice enough times, and they'll eventually all come up six. To the ominously minded, omens abound, and every chance event and surprising occurrence is positively laden with tantalizing but illusory auspice. Yet a question remains: what's the difference? How can we know whether we are dealing with doctoral error or divine intervention, especially when doctors might jump at the opportunity to gloss over a mistake, and priests might seek to rekindle the faith of a dwindling congregation? What is the difference between the meaningless parade of fives from Dr. Salk's footnote of a trip, and the highly meaningful parade of laboratory experiments that led him down the road to one of the most remarkable medical breakthroughs of the twentieth century? It certainly seems that we should want some way of knowing whether Salk's findings were attributable to chance, a medical one-in-a-zillion freak occurrence; surely another one-in-a-zillion freak occurrence might be five doctors completely missing part of a person's colon when that's exactly what they were poking around for, never mind the odds that a man in the sky cured gangrene overnight because the feng shui was just thus and so. When we decide to question our answers, where does it end? And what do we risk by dwelling on these questions too long, or answering them too hastily?
Call it fate, call it chance, call it blind cause and effect, but today is an auspicious day. Given enough time, good bookkeeping, and the human desire to immortalize today in the memory of tomorrow, every day is bound to become auspicious. But this day is extraordinary, even as every person goes about his or her business in a perfectly ordinary way. Children play on playgrounds, adults procrastinate at work, teachers teach and preachers preach, while street corner doomsayers shout the words of long-dead prophets at passing motorists and pedestrians. The doomsayers are wrong in many important ways, of course: the world is not ending, Christ is not coming, the end is not nigh, and no repentance is necessary. The prophecies that so move them today have moved them and countless others like them to similarly foolish acts, and other prophecies have moved others still to yet more foolishness. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in one very important way, they are right: human civilization stands on the brink of collapse, as it has collapsed at other historical junctures.
Even for all that, you can't really give credit to the doomsayers for their inadvertent accuracy. After all, a broken clock is still correct for two glorious minutes of every day.