During one of his stemwinding Sunday sermons, the Reverend A. Graham Baldwin paused for dramatic effect. It was at this precise moment that a slack-jawed day-dreaming student in the pew in front of me let loose with a belch, so deafening it could be heard from the fitting room at Elander & Swanton. The poor guy followed this up with a startled “Oh, I’m sorry!” so loud it would have bounced off the carillon at the far end of the campus.
The guy seated to his left, Peter Herrick (’56), wanted to laugh in the worst way. But of course this would have further distracted the Reverend’s rapt audience and gotten him a demerit. So, as I watched from directly behind, his neck swelled to a reddish purple like a magma chamber in a volcano while he valiantly suppressed it.
And that was it. The service and the sermon continued without further incident. Nobody got a demerit. We all continued on our way; our grasp of religious profundities forever punctuated by a resounding belch. And I got to share the memory of it with day-dreaming classmates who probably never noticed.
Honestly, you mention anyone’s name and if they farted in my presence I’ll remember it. I still remember sitting at a long table in the cavernous, hushed reading room at Widener Library, at Harvard, when a poor ‘Cliffie let one loose you could hear in the next county. Situation like that the human fight or flight response kicks in, right? Everyone at the table has to get up and leave holding their noses. Or the perpetrator has to pull out an AK-47 and order everyone to lie flat on the floor with their hands behind their backs. I mean, you can’t just leave it – pardon the expression – hanging in the air!
Somewhere in Japan there’s a super-computer calculating the value of Pi, the mathematical constant defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. There’s another computer doing the same thing somewhere in Manhattan. They’re both on a fool’s errand, of course, because the value of Pi will never resolve to a whole number. On the other hand, I think they’re on to something incredibly important. I think they’re confirming with one calculation what might be the controlling condition of all thought, all possibility, and all creation. That would be the condition that none of it can ever come to rest.
If we think about what energy is all about, where it came from and what it’s up to, my answer would be that there are lots of explanations, but the source that these idiots calculating the value of Pi are pointing to is restlessness. Energy is force born of philosophical-ontological questions that can’t be resolved, questions that involve conflicting answers and the tensions between them. Energy fueled by titanic tensions then goes off on a tear looking for some way to come to rest.
We are part of a construct of “reality” – our real Parents and their real Child, not us noodniks making fools of ourselves in our pathetic bodies and world of material weirdness – that’s an experiment, to see if “creation” can achieve resolution and peace. And it can in theory if the Child stays out of trouble, but of course we and that poor ‘Cliffie are proof that things can go horribly wrong. How can energy come to rest when someone just farted?