Monday, December 22, 2014

Teoría de conjuntos (a poem for Christmas)

Christmas is back! The most... depressing period of the year. Really, while the peak of suicides over Christmas is a myth, it surely can bring the worst in our souls: extremely overcrowded shopping streets (with the included unnecessary touching, keep your heels far from my feet, woman, thanks), creepy Santa Claus(es?) grinning at every corner, sad, pale light decorations that always miss a row of burned bulbs and that in the most flamboyant cases will surely induce a seizure. And what about the perfect present you have to choose for your Nazi sympathizer cousin that you managed to avoid for one year?

For this reason, this time I'll try to avoid the hard mathematics and I'll post something... warmer. A poem, whose title is "Set Theory"

Teoría de conjuntos

Cada cuerpo tiene
su armonía y
su desarmonía.
En algunos casos
la suma de armonías
puede ser casi
En otros
el conjunto
de desarmonías
produce algo mejor
que la belleza.

 (taken from here)

This is a poem by Mario Benedetti, a Uruguyan poet, probably one of the most important writers in Latin America in the last century, even if he is not really known in the English-speaking world. 

Unfortunately, my knowledge of Spanish and English is not enough for a good translation, so if you don't know Spanish (hello, 93% of the world population!), I can just give you the meaning. In the end, it has nothing to do with maths: "conjunto" in English is "set", but also "collection", "whole". Benedetti says that every body has a harmony and a disharmony. somethimes the sum of harmonies can be almost loathsome, while in other cases the collection of disharmonies can produce something even better than beauty.

So, nothing to say about math here, the "set theory" of the title was just the inspiration for Benedetti to write a small and wise poem about the beauty of the imperfection of human nature. Keep it with you this days: what if the collection of all the horrors we will have to endure for the holidays, in the end really forms something beautiful?

I'll take Benedetti's word here.

Thanks to Luz for having pointed me out this poem! See? The suggestions box works!

Looking for something light? Then naive Set Theory is for you. 

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