Robert R. Fenichel

The Harvard Class of 1963 50th-Reunion Book

  Every five years after graduation, members of each Harvard College class are invited to submit accounts to a book (the "Big Red Book") that is published and distributed to them.  Many of the contributions are tendentious boasting, sharply satirized by my classmate Don Goldsmith as

I know I should cut down--but where? My patients need me, my family needs me, readers of my column need me, the people I advise about investments need me . . .

but some are more interesting.  My contributions in past editions of the BRB have been pedestrian.  For the 50-year edition of 2013, I submitted this:

We started painting at the North Pole.  We didn't know what were doing, we didn't even know the earth was round, and we thought that we had infinite time to paint an infinite plane.  We started with a painted circle and kept it on our right, walking clockwise, painting a stripe in a widening spiral.  After a little while, the painted area was so large that we couldn't see across it, and its edge was so nearly straight that we could no longer perceive its curvature.  We continued painting.

As our path edged outward (southward, we know now), there was terrain, there were auks and puffins, and later we saw other birds and other people.  We painted them all, and moved on. 

It got warmer, but then it started getting cooler again, and around that time we could again see that our stripe was curved, but now we were on the inside of the spiral, not the outside.  We were still seeing terrain and birds and people, and we kept painting, because we didn't know what else to do.

So here we are.  The last birds we saw were penguins, and that was a while ago.  On clear days we can see across to the other side of the shrinking area that is not yet painted.  We are still painting.

It's too late to change the color of the paint.




Page revised: 04/30/2013 14:09