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Reflection & Refraction
forioscribe


Hearty and admiring congratulations both to kayeyem, the first to come up with a generally stated solution to the double shadow mystery, and cpmcdill, who nailed it exactly. Thanks to all who participated. Your comments are always welcomed.


  Title


The professor set to work with a pen and a ruler. He handed me the sketch.
“Well, that’s simple enough,” I said. “I suppose I was expecting something a lot more complicated.”
“Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate.”
“Say again?”
“One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.”
“Occam’s Razor.”
“You are correct once again, lad. I’m impressed.”



“Thank you.”
“When I encountered the double shadow I thought about how in the distant past such peculiar visions would elicit great fear.”
“It was a strange one, that’s for sure.”
“We rush to ascribe causes, however illogical they might be. Which is the very foundation of creation myths.”
“There just has to be a reason for everything, don’t you think?”
“Yes. I stood on that spot next to the creek for quite a while, reflecting, so to speak. It was very easy to see the vision as profoundly spiritual, or as an important sign of some kind. For instance, I could take the double shadow to mean a revelation of my duality. Something akin to the right/left brain thing. But in that instance it wasn’t lateral, which implies equality, but vertical, like a superior/inferior hierarchy.”
“Hey, Doc.”
“Yes?”
“Whatever happened to Occam’s Razor?”
“Just a train of thought, lad. A myriad of associations, connections, as usual.”
“All right. Go ahead, if you insist.”
“Before this incident at the creek I had a similar experience. Early one morning I saw my shadow on wet grass. Around my shadow’s head was a vivid glowing halo.”
“Another reflection?”
“No, but close. I subsequently saw an article in The Scientific American that said such halos are created by refraction of sunlight through beads of dew, something akin to how a rainbow is formed. It was easy to imagine, however, that something more spooky was going on. A fellow might indeed persuade himself to believe it was a Divine Sign.”
“And of course the next step would be to turn the whole thing into an institution. Like a religion. With a big tithe-giving congregation.”
“Precisely. Quoting from Finnegans Wake: ‘He prophets most who bilks the best.’”
“The whole idea behind it,” I said, “is the acquisition of power and social control, no?”
“Yes, of course. Among the genuine shamans are an equal number of charlatans. Which unfortunately clouds the history of organized religion. Cheek by jowl with spiritual uplifting are lies, frauds, misrepresentations. Some are intentional, others are not. I believe we’re obliged to sort it out.”
“But the true believers obviously disagree.”
Harold laughed.


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I have a question for you, unrelated to anything. I've been doing weird web-searches that led to a bunch of Italian pages, and one of them had the word "stakanovista" in it, and I can't for the life of me come up with an Italian dictionary online that knows the word. I'd guess you do, since you live in Italy -- enlighten me?

"Stakanovista Onanista," from what I can gather in the context of a couple of searches I just did myself, refers to masturbation.

Except otherwise the word seems to be used in contexts of sports or public lifestyles. I think it means some kind of thing like "important person" or "chief" or something, but I can't figure it out. Hmm.

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