I’ve had many great spiritual / intellectual / personal moments in my life: one of the greatest came while watching Jacob Bronowski’s Ascent of Man: Bronowski presented Pythagoras proof for the square of the hypotenuse, and, for the first time in my life, I got it. (If you’ve ever gotten it, then no doubt you remember the moment too; if you don’t, then you still haven’t gotten it: and won’t understand what I say below either.)
(I love the story I quoted around FLEX, 1970 ff: “I went through it (the quantum theory) once and looked up only to find the class full of blank faces-they had obviously not understood. I went through it a second time, and they still did not understand it. And so I went through it a third time, and that time I understood it.”
So: Pythagoras is one of the stupendous geniuses: so brilliant it’s almost unimaginable. But: here’s something else that one should perhaps also be aware of about Pythagoras: if it’s true, check me, I’ll check too:
Pythagoras was knows as a great mathematician among his contemporaries. He opened a school. The school was chock-a-block with geniuses. One of them was aggressive, a competitor. Pythagoras repressed him, got rid of him. The upstart burned the school down: and that’s how Pythagoras died!
So: if the story is true, if I’ve got the characters at all right, then Pythagoras, however brilliant he was, was also a repressor of ideas: an enemy of reason.
I am not a mathematician. Stories about Faulkner, Hemmingway … I know how to check in my own library; stories about mathematicians, though they too may be in my own library, I can’t check as readily. Prolonged, choreographed, poverty has kept my library out of my hands much of my adult life, my library is rat-beshat, roach-eaten, mildewed … shoved in a shed, not ordered … I have no elbow room to re-order it. Still: I’ll look in what books of mine I can reach, and I’ll Google too.