PARADOXES


It slipped my mind again, because at the instant when I tried to untangle my memory I was working on my paper, which had been due weeks ago already. It wasn't that I was procrastinating on it, nor was the assignment particularly difficult. Still, already five times I had talked my professor into giving me extra time, and he always seemed to give in, reluctantly at first, then with a tap of his pipe on the library table (we always met in the library) nodding and smiling. Like usual papers did I begin finishing it on the last day before the re-appointed deadline? No, I had been working on it from the first day it had been assigned, and the strangest thing of all was that this paper wasn't getting any longer. I was writing about paradoxes- more specifically, the kind of logic that made paradoxes work and why any other kind of logic was impossible. I had books by Bertrand Russell and John von Neumann piled up on my desk, covering up the dusty radio that was always on while it sat on the window ledge by the broken pane, but these books didn't seem to get me anywhere. I had my hypothesis about the integration of time and space coordinates, and this idea in itself wasn't really a rare one. It was just that every time I encountered something descriptive, a proof or a definition related specifically to the relationship I was so desperately looking for between these systems of coordinates, I would suddenly realize in the millisecond it took to mentally recognize a familiar word that what I was getting at lay somewhere beyond all this. "When one examines all of Zeno's paradoxes,"I wrote, writing and rewriting this thesis for the tenth time already without any of its premises evolving, "one can see that they are inherently similar in that they all somehow deal with the impossibility of motion, whether this motion is physical or temporal. Because of this, the flaw in the logic that holds them as true is the abuse of the coordinates of time and space, which in these cases are measured separately, taking turns. This creates a situation in which time and space are not concurrent, which makes measurement impossible." The problem I kept encountering was that it was impossible to think in terms of both systems of coordinates simultaneously, but I could never accept that reality, because then all logic crumbled. Then I would pause and stare for hours at my work, scratch the original and start over, coming up with something in the end that wasn't too different from the previous version. So the ten-page paper that had been due last month was still only one page long.


Another problem I had with writing this was that it reminded me too much of another theory that I or someone else had been working on, one that based human thought and the concept of abstraction in linguistic theory. It wasn't so much that I couldn't figure out who it was that had been working on it- some woman, but that its conclusions, none of which I seemed to be able to ever access, were extraordinarily tempting. It seemed that if I could only grasp what had been achieved through that research and construction, I would be able to understand the impossibility of working in two systems of coordinates simultaneously, and finish my paper before the end of the semester. It was fine if someone had written it, even if in my other language- I would be able to find the work. What I feared was that it was I that had written it, or more precisely, not written it, but planned out exactly what I would write and understood the subject before actually scribbling a single word. If this was the case, then there was hardly any hope of me ever going back to those once lucid ideas.

Perhaps I was approaching it from too abstract an angle- Professor Stoltz already once suggested that instead of tackling the space-time concept I look instead at the problem in empirical physics and their evolution, which, according to him, was more interesting and applicable as a contradiction to the paradox of motion. He didn't understand that I wasn't concerned with proving or disproving the concept of that paradox, but with reconciling space and time, something which he would not let me write about, and come to think of it, which no one would let me write about.


Of course the borderline of this matter lay not in theory or logical paradox, but in the instances that I remembered not remembering- their projection on my actual imprints in memory, and the result of the merging of the projection and the memory. It was a lethargic perception not of images but of the models of those images. The woman in the tiny Russian cafe with palm leaves and tiny lights on the ceiling, whom I came to listen to, attracted me only because she reminded me of a bleary-eyed slender blue woman from another blue movie, which in turn reminded me of an existence I might have known, but never experienced. I never experienced it because there was no imprint of its experience anywhere in me. It was a recursivity that led God only knew where, back to the half-lit angles in someone else's bedroom and the cubism of a hundred years ago, then forward to the cold, thin and quick canals of the internet and the ethereal matter of its design, at which I would sometimes stop at work and stare, through an unsmiling Unix screen that hid an ironic smirk in its mainframe.


Were these random collections of details actually picked up from the material of a culture I woke up to, details which I had seen so briefly that I'd forgotten them immediately after my attention was attracted to something less concrete? But those images were not random- each instant was a relevant component of a world that had its own smell, its own streets and sidewalks, its own dripping subway pipes, bureaucracy and crowded waiting rooms, its own network of hypertextual paper, but all that was a little more subtle and superficial. Yet it was all something I sensed to be on the other side of a reflexive transfer in my life, though each time I got to the other side, where my language was bleak and feminine, where I was a woman, and where I was more preoccupied with crystals and people rather than strings of thought, whatever brief nuance pointing to that world was again out of my reach, was again on the other side.