Saturday, August 14, 2010

Zero-sum game -- in a poem by Okigbo

Game theory (with origins in the 1930s) was initially developed to analyze competitive decisions in which one individual does better at another's expense--"zero sum" games--and this term has become a part of everyday vocabulary; here we find it in a poem by Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967), a Nigerian poet. 


     Where then are the roots, where the solution
     To life’s equation?
     The roots are nowhere
     There are no roots here
     Probe if you may
     From now until doomsday
     We have to think of ourselves as forever
     Soaring and sinking like dead leaves blown by a gust
     Floating choicelessly to the place where
     Old desires and new born hopes like bubbles burst
     Into nothing – blown to the place of fear
     To the cross in the void;
     Or else forever playing a zero-sum game
     With fate as mate, and forever
     Slaying and mating as one by one
     Our tombstones rise in the void.

Christopher Okigbo died while fighting for the independence of Biafra.  This selection from the work of Okigbo was found in the new black magazine as Part III of "On the New Year" and it is offered here as a remembrance of the bold life he lived and the challenges he met and overcame.   In my July 18 posting you will find additional poetry related to game theory.

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