I hope I’ll make it to the new Broadway production of Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece Arcadia. This play goes for my jugular. The heartbreaking, extraordinary Thomasina; Lord Byron lurking offstage; the garden and the wilderness; the carnal embrace in the gazebo. Stoppard says all there is to say about chaos and fractals better than I ever managed: “The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives, the things people write poetry about—clouds—daffodils—waterfalls—and what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in—these things are full of mystery, as mysterious to us as the heavens were to the Greeks.”
And I quote Arcadia all over again in The Information: the unexpected, wise response of Septimus to Thomasina’s grief over the ancient destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria (“All the lost plays of the Athenians!”):
We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?
All the while, there is a place and a purpose for forgetting.