Friday, December 30, 2011

Boy Topologist’s Fuzzy Boundary

            Boy Topologist’s Fuzzy Boundary

If point A is black, and point B is white,
and here it is day, and there it is night
then what do we make of the points in-between?
For surely it is plainly seen
that somewhere there must be a border
which, though its edge creates this order
itself does not commit its troth
to either side. So is it both?
Or neither? How to read this rhyme?
What place to place the time of time?
For is the present old or new?
And is the boundary false or true?

A long time ago, when I was a young lad, I had a strange encounter with topology. I was three blocks away from home, at the corner of Chestnut and Fuller streets. There was a signpost at the corner; the sign read: “WABAN  - A Village Of Newton”. I hadn’t been anywhere in Waban yet, so I was curious. A village? Were there thatched huts? I saw none. Maybe if I crossed the border and looked a little closer, I could see them. I approached the sign… and hesitated.
I stood at the border between Newton and Waban. Was it any different in Waban? And if so, what happens if you have one foot in Newton and one in Waban? Would you feel the boundary? Would it hurt?
             I hesitated… then boldly planted one foot in Waban and one in Newton. The boundary went straight through my body. I closed my eyes and concentrated…
            … and didn’t feel a thing. I was just standing there, splayfooted. Spacetime in Waban was no different from spacetime in Newton.
            So I opened my eyes, and have been skeptical about political boundaries ever since.
            (And no, there are no thatched huts in Waban!)

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