Thursday, July 13, 2006

The pursuit of love and happiness

"Señora," said Velásquez, "the pursuit of happiness can, it seems to me, be compared to the solution of a quadratic or cubic equation. You know the last term and you know that it is the product of all the roots, but before having exhausted all the divisors you reach a certain number of imaginary roots. Meanwhile the day goes by and you have had the pleasure of engaging in calculation. The same is true of human life. You also reach imaginary quantities which you have taken for real values. But in the meantime you have lived and moreover acted. Now activity is a universal law of nature. Nothing is at rest. The rocks seems to be at rest because the ground on which it rests opposes a force greater to it than the pressure it exerts. But if you put your foot on this rock you will soon see how it acts."

"But," said Rebecca, "can you submit the movement which we call love to calculation? It is claimed, for example, that with familiarity love grows smaller in men and it grows greater in women. Can you tell my why?"

"The problem that you have set me, Señora," said Velásquez, "presupposes that one of the two loves grows and the other diminishes. So that there will necessarily be a moment when the two lovers love each other equally, one in exactly the same degree as the other. In this way the problem can be brought to bear under the rule of maxima and minima and can be represented by a curve. I have thought up a very elegant proof for problems of this kind. Let
x …"

As Velásquez reached this point in his analysis …

— Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found In Saragossa, trans. Ian MacLean

1 Comment:

Pietr said...

Sounds like a mathematics graduate who wanted to write stories.