integers and fractions

This is a departure from the types of things I normally talk about on here, but I don’t care cause I thought this was cool.

I was listening to the radio on the way to work (WAMC, the local public radio) and there’s this bit that they do called the Writer’s Almanac. I don’t always catch it, but it’s usually fairly interesting. So today the guy read this poem on the air… And being an engineer/geek, as well as someone who believes in God, it really struck me. Here’s the link (scroll down to Friday the 23rd), but I put it all here as well (I hope that’s legal)…  If you have any geeky inclinations then you might enjoy this as well.

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FRIDAY, 23 FEBRUARY, 2007
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: “The Invention of Fractions” by Jessica Goodfellow, from A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland. © Concrete Wolf Chapbook Series. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The Invention of Fractions

God himself made the whole numbers: everything else
is the work of man.

—Leopold Kronnecker

God created the whole numbers:
the first born, the seventh seal,
Ten Commandments etched in stone,
the Twelve Tribes of Israel —
Ten we’ve already lost —
forty days and forty nights,
Saul’s ten thousand and David’s ten thousand.
‘Be of one heart and one mind’ —
the whole numbers, the counting numbers.

It took humankind to need less than this;
to invent fractions, percentages, decimals.
Only humankind could need the concepts
of splintering and dividing,
of things lost or broken,
of settling for the part instead of the whole.

Only humankind could find the whole numbers,
infinite as they are, to be wanting;
though given a limitless supply,
we still had no way
to measure what we keep
in our many-chambered hearts.

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