Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rhapsody Apophenian

People have a tendency to superimpose patterns on random phenomena, what psychologists call apophenia. Epiphany can be creative, finding faces and forms in clouds, though its opposite, apophany, forcing everything to fit into your mania, is delusional and, depending upon degree, schizophrenic. This patternicity or randommania also ties to belief in the paranormal and other Type 1 Errors: Divination, gambler’s fallacy, numerology, unscientific conclusions. Every bump in the night isn’t caused by a ghost; world is noisier during day, so routine rattlings may not be noticed until quiet intervenes. Likewise, bicycling, though prevalent for last 150 years, wasn’t always such a profound influence on culture. Last year’s April Fools post stated, “Bicycles didn’t mobilize legions of Imperium Romanum.” Then odd ideas intersect your vector and warrant reassessment.

Though its name derived from Latin means “to run again”, a palindrome bears no resemblance to a velodrome, a track where cyclists race around. Why is it not called a palinilap? Can you guess who* is referenced by, "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama"? As a sentence or word that reads the same backward and forward, must palindromes also provide radar into someone’s identity? Clearly, no. There’s nothing to them other than humanity’s proclivity for play.

Shown in facsimile, the Sator Square, made before 79 AD, is considered among the oldest known examples. Cleverly constructed, it’s in Latin, readable from 4 directions. It has been analyzed for ages and ascribed with superstitious portent. Has it any connection to bicycles? Bicycles were realized millennia later, but aren’t these anachronistic terms suggestive?

SATOR could mean author, founder, god, originator, or sower of seeds. Scholars speculate that AREPO must be a proper name, though it could describe someone who creeps along or slowly measures, reminiscent of cyclists with cyclometers, especially those riding hesitantly forth as suitors to someone other than cousins or siblings to improve the gene pool. TENET holds or masters, OPERA works, and ROTAS are wheels, though as a verb it could mean spin. Wheels to modern ears would signify bikes or cars, though chariots or wagons to ancient Romans. Auriga, the charioteer, a diamond frame constellation balanced on celestial equator, was indeed the prototypical 2-wheeler.

Commonly translated, "The sower Arepo holds wheels with effort,” makes little sense. Context long lost, could be about charioteers, as “The wheelwright purveys wheels,” or ploughmen, “Whoever plants must attend plough’s wheels,” but what would be the point? As an amulet, probably symbolizes the perpetual rotation of day and night that sows new troubles with which to deal. Or may just be foolish graffiti no more meaningful than aibohphobia (fear of palindromes) or, "I’m a lasagna hog, go hang a salami." Rather imagine it as some prescient statement, “The author, a careful measurer of everything coming, has a book for you about bicycles,” thus making it personal and relevant.

This final translation is just a fantasy one shouldn't take seriously instigated by recently announced route of 2015’s Giro d’Italia; Stage 9 will swing near where Sator Square was found, in the shadow of Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted flowing ash, land and lava over Herculaneum, thus preserving this enigma to vex modernity.

* Rough Rider President Teddy Roosevelt.

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see. I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy, because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low. Anyway the wind blows doesn't really matter to me.”—Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, 1975, "A" Side to "I'm in Love with My Car"

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