R: origin of notion of computable universes

From: scerir <scerir.domain.name.hidden>
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 23:02:57 +0200

- Italo Calvino -

'Invisible Cities' (1972)

VI, Cities and the sky.

In Eudossia, that extends up and low, with meandering alleys, steps, narrow
lanes, hovels, a carpet is kept in which you can contemplate the real shape
of the city. At first nothing seems to resemble less Eudossia than the
design of the carpet, ordered in symmetrical figures that repeat their
patterns along straight and circular lines, woven of needleful of dazzling
colors, which alternating wefts you can follow all along the warp. But if
you stop to observe it with attention, you perceive that to every place of
the carpet corresponds a place of the city and that all the things contained
in the city are comprised in the design, arranged according to their true
relationships, which escape to your eye distracted from the coming and going
from the swarming from the awful crush. All the confusion in Eudossia, the
bray of the mules, the spots of lamp-black, the smell of fish, is what
appear in the partial perspective that you pick; but the carpet proves that
there is a point from which the city shows its true proportions, the
geometric outline implicit in its every minimal detail.

Getting lost in Eudossia is easy: but when you concentrates staring the
carpet you recognize the road that you were looking for in a crimson or
indigo or amaranth thread that through a long round lets you enter in a
purple fence that is your true point of arrival. Every inhabitant of
Eudossia confronts to the immovable order of the carpet his own image of the
city, an anguish, and everyone can find hidden between the arabesques an
answer, the story of his life, the twists of his destiny.

An oracle was consultated about the mysterious relationship between two such
different objects as the carpet and the city. One of the two objects, - it
was the response, - has the shape that the gods gave to the starry sky and
to the orbits around which the worlds spin; the other one is an approximate
glare, like every human work.

The augurs since so long were sure that the harmonic design of the carpet
was of divine nature; in this sense the oracle was interpreted, without
giving place to controversies. But in the same way you can draw the opposite
conclusion: that the real map of the universe is the city of Eudossia as it
is, a spot that spreads without shape, with zigzag roads, houses collapsing
above one another in the dust, fires, cries in the dark.
Received on Mon Apr 15 2002 - 14:03:43 PDT

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