Ted (merovingian) wrote,
Ted
merovingian

Tough town!

I picked up a hitchhiker last weekend, at a southbound onramp to 101. He was headed to the Tech Museum in downtown San Jose. I love picking up hitchhikers. Something about it says, "Untaxable barter of goods and services."

After a minute or two, I recognized him!

"Hey," I noted, "Aren't you the Mendelbrot set?"

"Well, a slightly anthropomorphized version that's capable of conversation, yes."

He seemed kind of awkward. He probably has a lot of groupies. That must be why he'd introduced himself as Ex Squared Minus See. A little anonymity can be nice sometimes, you know?

"So..." I said quietly, seeking a topic. "How does it feel to be infinitely complex?"

"Actually, that's kind of a leading question. I mean, you feed x squared minus c back into x indefinitely, and the results are pretty simple for most values of x and c. I just get really big. There's a few places where that doesn't happen, and I linger around, like, say, initial x of zero and c of 1. You're probably referring to the border between the two, where the tiniest change in either value can send the results to infinity."

"Well, yes."

"I think that's how most people see me. But I don't usually feel that way. Most of the time, I'm nowhere near that border and I don't feel very complex at all. I mean, if every point in my life was so unstable that a tiny change would radically alter everything, I'd just be static and I wouldn't be very interesting."

I mulled that over in my head. "So you're saying that your existence is mostly stable and simple, but sometimes there's an exquisite, beautiful border where everything could fall apart with the subtlest of changes?"

"Yes, I guess."

"The borderline must be exhilarating and nervewracking all at once."

"Sure, but it's the only way I can change."

"You know, I feel that way myself sometimes."

Then the highway patrol pulled me over for excessive metaphor while operating a vehicle. I got a ticket, and the Mendelbrot set walked the rest of the way. Haven't seen him since.

Tough town.
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