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Friday, April 19, 2013

What Are The Odds?

You didn't notice that model of car until you decided to buy one; now it seems to be everywhere. A word unfamiliar to you starts popping up all the time. A name you don't recall ever hearing before suddenly feels hard to escape. How recently has something like this happened to you?

My sister suggested a while back that I blog about this phenomenon that philosophy calls schemata vs. scotoma; I resisted - three or four paragraphs felt inadequate. But reviewing my notes on "Boardwalk Empire" (2002) by Nelson Johnson for an upcoming book club meeting, it dawned on me: I've been in a schemata/scotoma loop for a few months. For this simpleton, the following amply demonstrates how we have blind spots in our awareness (scotoma) until something enters our frame of reference (schemata).

* While reading "Boardwalk Empire", I saw "Lincoln"; didn't know NJ was the only Northern state not to ratify the 13th amendment (debated in the film) until I read it in "...Empire". Or did I?
* Very soon after, an un-finished EL Doctorow novel called "The March" (owned since its 2005 release), about Sherman's march from Atlanta to No.Carolina at the end of the Civil War, happened to be the novel I grabbed off my bookshelf on a day the library was closed. It was not a book club selection. Neither was...
* Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" (1985), a library book I grabbed by pure accident (?) while looking for Mary McCarthy's "The Group" for my wife. I read "...Meridian" only because it is held in high regard by several favorite authors; knew nothing else about it. Want to guess when and where some of the action in that book takes place? Coincidences, you say? Almost done.
* "Mornings On Horseback" (1981) by David McCullough, was the selection of the most recent book club I've joined. It tells the story of Theodore Roosevelt's early years; he was born in 1858. In it, McCullough speaks at length of Theodore Roosevelt Sr., a "Lincoln Democrat", who was a huge influence on his eldest son. And there's a picture in the book of 7 year old Teddy watching the NYC funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln.

Four books with copyrights from 1981-2005 and a 2012 film, each dealing in some way with the Civil War, the 13th amendment, Lincoln's assassination. Any odds makers out there? 

1 comment:

  1. Your perception of long odds is explained in your next read, Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up, by John Allen Paulos.