"Let us next seek a clear idea of Weight."
According to Charles S. Peirce, pragmaticist philosopher, "There
is absolutely no difference
between a soft and hard thing so long as they are not put to the test."
So it can be said that a diamond is soft until pressed.
Charles? My head hurts.
Goodnight, says Charles, then closes the door, uncloses it, Goodnight, everybody.
Goodnight, says Charles,
squeezing open the door, opening it wider, but it's morning, isn't it?
The sun's slowing down.
God is slowing down like an accordion.
Charles sits in the supermarket aisle.
He begins tapping the cans of beans, tapping the canned tomatoes.
The pickled beets.
He likes the sound of them.
People consider him a crank.
They refuse him a lectureship. He doesn't care a bit.
According to Peirce: "If anybody supposes that I shall regret missing
that might attach to the name of C.S. Peirce--a name that won't be mine
I shall only say that he can indulge that fancy
without my taking the trouble to contradict him.
I have reached the age when I think of my home as being on the other side
rather than on this uninteresting planet."
He missed fame altogether. It wafted like a scent past him.
Day version: "Push came to shove. I packed up and left her. (He snaps
his fingers) Like that."
A night version, interrupted:
Charles? Listen, it was a bad one. I dreamt I was leaving
Ssshhhh, what an ill dream. It's never true. Give it away.
Did the bannister crumble to ash? Did time bend beneath you?
I can't. My head hurts. I was falling down a staircase.
No. You pushed me.
According to Peirce: "I am a man of whom critics have never found anything
good to say.
When they could see no opportunity to injure me, they have held their peace."
People considered his father, Benjamin Peirce, the leading American mathematician
of his age.
They consider his son a crank.
Why would I push you?
You had both arms high in the air.
You were snapping your fingers louder and louder.
You said: 'A higher velocity creates a greater impact.'
Then I felt your hands on my back. An enormous shove--
and I was tumbling, tumbling through the air.
Lyla, how is it that I am always so cruel in your dreams? Why is it always
me killing you
and never yourself?
"Changes of opinion are brought about by events beyond human control.
All mankind were so firmly of the opinion that heavy bodies must fall faster
than light ones--
[soon] it became apparent that nature would not follow human opinions, however
People will soon realize that whether we are dreaming of falling or actually
it is at the same rate, being the same thing.
Go to sleep.
You said I was too heavy.
Were you flying? At least that.
I was just falling down the stairs.
Charles was a man of contradictions. He once stood on his head for two days,
Nothing in the world could console him.
The salt dried white on his eyebrows, his forehead. His first wife had left
Said Pierce For Two Days,"
According to Peirce, "Anthony gave a ring to Cleopatra."
* * * *
The priceless pearl ring she dissolved in a cup of vinegar?
I called Peirce up one day. It was two days before his death.
* * * *
He sat in front of a fireplace with no fire and no food was in the house.
There was only a sofa, a high chair and three bookcases filled with his
I brought them fire, food. He smiled, turned away.
He was afraid I would see the state of his teeth.
According to Peirce: "But I never heard of saccharin."
He died on a snowy day, poor, starving, cancer ridden, so light
that I held him high in my arms.
His name was hardly known until it was of no use to him whatsoever.
After he died, I gathered his papers, boxed them and brought them to my
According to Charles S. Peirce, "Il fait froid." He is right.
My housekeeper threw out his papers this morning. I found them in the
They are unnumbered, an illegible mess, half-soaked and burnt.
They were the definitive collection of all the hints and quibbles
he had published during his life.
It would take years to make sense of this.
I had been biding my time for their publication
and it was already over.
According to Peirce: "Many a man has cherished for years as his hobby
some vague shadow of an idea,
too meaningless to be positively false;
he has, nevertheless, passionately loved it...in short has lived with it
and for it, until it has become,
as it were, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone; and then he has waked
up some bright morning
to find it gone, clean vanished away like the beautiful Melusina of the
and the essence of his life gone with it,
I have myself known such a man--"
Outside, the sun shone on the snow, transforming it into a clear crust of
I saw a tall glass cathedral.
Charles, you were building away from me, higher and higher,
hammering into the sky--hundreds of feet high--enormous wings and steel
And there you were balancing on the top--fitting in the panes, adjusting
the stars one by one--
According to Peirce: "The whole function of thought is to produce habits
Charles, are you heavy? Charles, are you light?
I held him in my arms and he, coughing twice,
stiffened out, weighed nothing at all, a bit of soft leather on bone.
Juliette Froissy, his second wife, wept.
And you fell from the roof but on your shoulders
were two great panes of glass and so you swerved upwards.
You were weaving through the sunshine, gliding on the back of some invisible
And then I couldn't see you anymore.
I have heard the body loses 8 ounces when a person dies.
Where does it go?
A soft shuffle, a dull banging noise was heard in the kitchen,
the rattle of a window opening.
How would I have been able to fly with wings so heavy?
And where were you?
According to Peirce," Let us next seek a clear idea of Weight."
Lyla, where were you?
I'm here, no--I'm here. Look up.
So we took out a scale and weighed him.