Cursing Zeno

Zeno was born about 2500 years ago, but he’s still making life difficult.

He was a Greek philosopher back in the day. Like a lot of philosophers, he was more like a not-very-funny comedian, and he asked a lot of not-very-funny riddles. A lot of them go something like this:

snail Say there’s a snail crossing a table. Will it ever reach the other side? Well, first it has to get halfway to the other side. And then it has to get halfway between the halfway point and the other side. Then it has to complete half of the remaining distance. Then it has to get half of the remaining distance again. And so forth — there’s an infinite series of infinitely smaller distances our slowpoke has to traverse, and in theory the snail never gets there because there’s always another halfable distance.

Whenever I am trying to get through a first draft of something, I totally identify with that hapless gastropod. I get halfway through, sure. And then I do half of what’s left. Then I do half of the remainder, and another half of what’s left after that. I never arrive, though. It’s not even true what Plato said about the divisions of time getting smaller. I find myself in a time warp where the half distances take longer as they get shorter. Einstein could probably explain why that is, but I wouldn’t understand the explanation.

In any case, I’m moving at a snail’s pace, crawling on my stomach and leaving a trail of slime… well, a trail of marked up pages. And I’m cursing Zeno the whole time.

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