Oedipus and the Riddle

By Sean Carroll | August 19, 2011 12:33 pm

Thanks to Richard O’Connell for suggesting this Jorge Luis Borges poem as appropriate to the time-travel theme.

Oedipus and the Riddle

Quadruped in the dawn, erect at noon,
and wandering on three legs across the blind
spaces of afternoon; so the eternal
Sphinx saw her inconstant brother, Man.
And to her rocky silence came a man
who unlocked the riddle in the mirror;
terrified, he saw the shattering image
of his destruction and his error.
We are Oedipus, doomed as he, to be
the triple beast: child, saviour, suppliant-
all that we will be, all that we have been.
It would annihilate us in an instant
to glimpse our monstrous being; mercifully
God grants us issue and oblivion.

Sadly, God grants us nothing of the sort. But happily, we are not annihilated by glimpsing our monstrous being. We may be disappointed, disillusioned, or discombobulated; but those are temporary conditions that we can strive to overcome. Embrace your monstrous being! It’s the only true strategy in the face of Time’s relentless march.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


See More

Collapse bottom bar