(urth) some random thoughts: gematria, Forlesen, seal of Pas

Marc Aramini marcaramini at gmail.com
Sun May 4 23:12:50 PDT 2014

So ... I am trying to articulate my thoughts about Forlesen, a story where
the theme is clear but the actual mechanism of Forlesen's life is a bit ...
difficult.  When Emmanuel Forlesen stops to pick up Abraham, Abraham says
he is eldest of 13 children and his father's farm was taken to be used for
a highway the very day he inherited it.  Well, that's fine ... but that
particular number and his name (just one child greater than the tribes of
Israel and Jacob's children) and the speckled lights in the clouds put me
in mind to some degree of Jacob's ladder.  (those names are a little too
religious to ignore anyway)

Anyway, Borski's idea that everything is a computer simulation and that the
no yes no yes yes no yes yes is binary at the end hasn't quite convinced
me, though I will confront it.  It got me thinking of number cognates and
how Wolfe uses them.  In Slaves of Silver, the flashing colors through the
tv set spell out HELP.

We have long puzzled over the strange numbers that sat on the Seal of Pas
that probably mean very little in Long Sun, but while I was researching
Jacob's ladder there was some almost Kabbalistic talk of how Sinai and the
word for ladder have the same numerical value in the Jewish practice of
gematria - that words or phrases of the same number value have some
relationship to each other.  Interestingly, there's actually a chart that
assigns letters to numbers.

However, I have no patience for that kind of cryptic system.  I just
thought it was interesting that conceivably there is an existing religious
number-letter cipher system that someone so inclined could use.  I don't
think that would be very fair at all, but the distinctly Jewish names
and Emmanuel (God is with us) picking up destitute Abraham who lost his
farm the day his father died to make a highway really does evoke some
Jewish salvation ideas. Forlesen needs a bit more thinking - I don't want
to declare that it simply is, Gregor Samsa turned beetle style. I think
cause and effect are almost always discernible in Wolfe that prevents him
from ever actually becoming an absurdist.
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