I spent some time this summer re-reading David Foster Wallace’s essay collections A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster, then got sucked into the Infinite Summer group that’s been reading and blogging about Infinite Jest this summer.

I didn’t finish the book this time through (I’ve read it twice before) but did have some great on-line discussions with other folks about some of the ideas Wallace was writing about.

What occurred to me this summer about Infinite Jest was that Wallace had intentionally placed in the book a lot of ideas about mathematical objects that are defined by things that are not part of the object itself.

The simplest example of this is the circle.  It is defined by its center, which is not on the circle itself.

Part of our lot in life might be seen as like that of a one-dimensional creature that exists on the edge of a circle going around and around searching for the part of the circle that defines it.

It’s not there.

And if you keep looking for it, you may drive yourself crazy.