Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Everything Contained in Anything

The poet in us knows it. Get close enough and its walls become windows. Doors open into rooms. The cottage cheese ceiling holds lumpy secrets. Listen; there are signals in the static, choreography in your steps. You are crowded with memories, and some that haven’t happened yet. Wallace Stevens never left this country, Emily Dickinson hardly left her room.

You are having breakfast cereal; Twigs, they call it, low-carb, high fiber. You throw in some strawberries and blueberries. Now you have a flag of red, milk and blue; a regular Fourth of July. Add some Krispies to snap, crackle and pop like bombs bursting in anthems of Irving Berlin. Look, you’re down to the bottom of the bowl never seen before with its faux-Delft blue; a Chinese scene of two peasants crossing a footbridge between mountains carrying pottery half way up the bowl. It’s all here and no jet lag.

Somehow this got me thinking about fractals. Fractals are patterns that repeat themselves at a smaller scale throughout the system. Don’t feel bad; it’s easy for me to say because I just looked it up. In the late 60s Benoit Mendelbrot demonstrated through mathematics that fractals are quite common in nature, from snow flakes to broccoli to our own beautiful bodies.

Some have said that our universe is fractal in construction, that black holes orbit exactly the same way as electrons do in atoms. I don’t get around much these days apart from lunch with friends so I have no opinion on the subject unless those are constellations and dark matter in my Cobb salad.

I wonder if this sort of patterning happens in human relationships. Do groups speak in macro the way their members do in micro? It does seem so with political messaging. Not only key points but exact fractal words seem to be passed along from headquarters to surrogates to Plummer Joes. There’s nothing like a second-hand phrase rolling off the tongue you could swear you just heard from someone else.

Fractals may not be the everything contained in anything; more like the small versions of something found within the larger something like the bowl carried by the Chinese peasant inside my cereal bowl under the blue bowl of sky.

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