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Well, of course.

Paradise Lost, Book ii, line 666 (where else?). Behold Death.


[...] The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joynt, or limb,
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful Dart; what seem'd his head
The likeness of a Kingly Crown had on.


Appropriately Lovecraftian, I'd say. But note that Satan (so call him now, his former name is heard no more in Heav'n) was, to say the least, unimpressed.

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Some fragments from Rilke's Duino Elegies

(Admittedly, probably more representative of my own preferences than of their overall tone.)


And if I cried, who'd listen to me in those angelic
orders? Even if one of them suddenly held me
to his heart, I'd vanish in his overwhelming
presence. Because beauty's nothing
but the start of terror we can hardly bear,
and we adore it because of the serene scom
it could kill us with. Every angel's terrifying.
[First Elegy]



And the night, oh the night when the wind
full of outer space gnaws at our faces;
[First Elegy]



Like dew on new grass,
like heat from a steaming dish, everything we are rises
away from us. 0 smile, where are you going?
o upturned look: new, wann, the heart's receding wave-
it hurts me, but that's what we are. Does the cosmic
space we dissolve into taste of us, then? Do angels
really absorb only what poured out of them,
or sometimes, as if by mistake, is there a trace
of us, too? Do the contours of their features bear
as much of us as that vague look on a pregnant woman's
face? Unnoticed by them in their whirling back
into themselves. (Why should they notice.)
[Second Elegy]




Everything conspires to ignore us, half out of shame,
perhaps, half out of some speechless hope.
[Second Elegy]



Free from death,
we only see it; the free animal
always has its destruction behind
and god ahead, and when it moves,
it moves toward eternity like running springs.

Not for a single day, no, never have we had
that pure space ahead of us, in which flowers
endlessly open. It is always World
and never Nowhere without No:
that pure, unguarded space we breathe,
always know, and never crave. As a child,
one may lose himself in silence and be
shaken out of it. Or one dies and is it.
Once near death, one can't see death anymore
and stares out, maybe with the wide eyes of animals.
[Eight Elegy]

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Physicists these days: Let's try to build computers encoding information in a Platonic non-local space built out of events that could've happened but we don't know if they did.

No, really:


If there are N distinct fusion channels in the presence of a pair of particles, the system exhibits N-fold
degeneracy spanned by these states. We refer to this non-local space shared by the non-Abelian
anyons, regardless of where they are located, as the fusion space. Under the assumption that all
microscopics of the system giving rise to the anyons are decoupled from the low-energy physics, the
states in the fusion space are perfectly degenerate. As it is a collective non-local property of the
anyons, no local perturbation can act on it and it is hence a decoherence-free subspace. As such it is
an ideal place to non-locally encode quantum information. We stress that the fusion space arises from
the distinct ways anyons can be fused over how they are fused. If two anyons are actually fused and the
outcome of the fusion is detected, this would correspond to performing a projective measurement in the
fusion space

"Introduction to Topological Quantum Computation"


Leveraging the stories you can tell about the particles in your system as a computational substrate built out of nothing but mathematics and a delicately engineered suspension of both belief and disbelief is something people are working towards building primitive prototypes of, right now, as I type this.

What an absurdly beautiful universe.

An Emily Dickinson poem


I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –


The language is of course Dickinson's, but take it literally, make it much wordier and overwrought, and you could have a typical tale from Poe. The Hammer horror film practically shoots itself.

(It's more interesting as psychology — Dickinson's descriptions of grief, e.g. After great pain, a formal feeling comes, are perhaps the most perceptive, not to mention beautiful, I've read — but, being a shallow person, I also enjoyed the literal imagery, particularly what would be a baffling but visually impressive ending to the movie.)

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A (fragment of a?) poem


Ophelia in the water, heart
soaked through. Completely
sodden. Heart leaking
all over the place. Ophelia
in the water, flowers floating
all around her. Flowers in
her hair. Her hair
floating all around her.

Ophelia in the water, finally
breathing again.


—R. WRIGHT; OPHELIA

It's that last line, of course.

From the looking for death within the rose-tree tumblr

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Color me beyond impressed

Lord Byron wrote a post-apocalyptic science-fiction poem, and it's awesome. And by awesome, I mean my God, that's bleak and horrifying and heartbreaking, and the attention to detail is almost sadistic.

Awfulness under the cut.Collapse )

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A funny quote, and a terrifying one

From The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History, on the training of cheetahs for hunting. After finding the prey, they unleash the cheetah (very funny fact: the cheetah rode on the same horse as his handler, sitting on the back) and set their


head toward the Prey; if he sees it, he gives a shriek, leaps down, falls on the Beast, and pulls it down; if he missed it he is commonly discouraged, and stops; the Master goes to him, comforts him, makes much of him, and tells him it is not his Fault, and that he had not been set directly before the Beast. They say he [the cat] understands that Excuse, and is satisfied with it.


Anybody who ever owned a cat will recognize the situation.

And from Eliot's The Dry Salvages:


The bone's prayer to Death its God. Only the hardly, barely prayable
Prayer of the one Annunciation.


As usual, Eliot's theology is terrifying (and insane for any self-professed Catholic). Death its God is bleak in a relatively naive way, but Prayer of the one Annunciation in that context is starkly existentialist, even and more so because it's not secular.

The more I reread Four Quartets, the more interesting I find it.

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After centuries of looking for a philosophically principled and rationally designed universal language, the species seems to have decided that our common language would be rooted on the now ubiquitously understood concepts of okay and fuck you, and that's beautiful.

[...] and I tell you it is an inspiriting thing to be alive and trying to write English.


From Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's On the Art of Writing

I love the word choices here, particularly trying. It's always a tussle, sometimes playful, sometimes, it feels, to the death. Quoth Eliot,


Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.


I think I've quoted those lines before; they get me every time I reread them.

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I love e. e. cumming's poetry, so much that most of the (few) poems I've memorized are his. Paradoxically, this means that I have more opportunity to have small mistakes when recalling his poems than anybody else's. And, perhaps as a sign of terminal hubris, I've realized I do prefer them the way I remember them (which is probably why I remember them that way).

To be specific, I remember this verse of since feeling is first

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph


as


we are for each other: laugh,
then
, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph


I don't know. It just sounds better to my ears, and I've never been able to convince my memory that it's not the right version.

The other one is from in time of daffodils:


and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me.


which to me just has to be


and in that mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me.


In this case (I think) not because of how it sounds, but because of what it says. Death is not a mystery to be when time from time shall set us free, it's that mystery to be when time from time shall set us free. You don't need, it doesn't make sense, to describe it, you're pointing to it, and the reference is unequivocal.

Of course, I'm not claiming that these are better in any universal sense, and I wouldn't expect everybody, most people, or anybody else to prefer them, but this is how it plays out to me.

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