Sunday, April 18, 2010

Things I Shall Probably Never Do

There are a number of things I should like to be able to look back on in my old age, if I have one, to consider as satisfactory reasons for having lived. We all have to die, it may be tomorrow, most of us will live pointless, forgotten lives and we like to look for ways to imagine that we will matter to those who come after us. We won't. Doing things won't change that, but it might help us to believe that what we do at a particular moment will justify the rest of our life. I've written books and I've planted trees, and neither of them is close to being a good reason for having lived. I haven't had children, so I can't comment, but observation suggests it doesn't work either. So here are a few ideas that I still have some faith in:

I want to ski-jump from a bigger hill than has ever been conceived. A K-1000, at least, some symbolic quantity like that.

I want to break the record for banzai parachuting. Google it. It's real, and possibly the single most magnificently crazy thing that has ever been devised.

And I want to climb Everest, solo and without oxygen. 'Because it's there'. Reinhold Messner and George Mallory may not matter much to most people, but they existed, and they did what they did.

I should like to understand the Astadhyayi to the point of being able to construct a coherent mathematics in terms of it, and to represent the work in terms of that mathematics. It is itself one of the outstanding monuments to human achievement, and to describe it in a mathematical metalanguage based on itself would surely be a genuine satisfaction. Turning it into comic opera would, I think, be overdoing it a bit.

That's about it, really. To do these things, to have done them, would give me a great sense of satisfaction, I think, and would be something to look back on. Since the chances of my ever doing any of them are close to zero I shall have to get on with the normal business of life- bit of work, bit of fun, boundless optimism and escape to the country when reality and politics get too tedious. It could be a lot worse. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to buy a parachute...

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