Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mother Courage -- and speaking of opposites

     Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was a poet, but I have not found mathematics in his poems.  Still, I want to note here a fantastic performance of his play, Mother Courage and her Children, starring Kathleen Turner and a talented ensemble at Washington,DC's Arena Stage.  Invited by my neighbors, Mitzi and Pati, I joined them yesterday for a riveting performance.   Here is a link to "How Fortunate the Man with None," a Brecht poem  heartily sung as "Solomon's Song" in the current musical production.
     And here, with a nod to the mathematical bent of this blog, is a quote from Brecht's Mother Courage that involves counting; also, it is one of many examples of a strategy that Brecht uses often and well -- encouraging an idea by speaking of its opposite. 

What they could use around here is a good war. 
What else can you expect with peace running wild all over the place? 
You know what the trouble with peace is?  No organization. 
And when do you get organization? In a war. 
Peace is one big waste of equipment. Anything goes, 
no one gives a damn. See the way they eat? 
Cheese on pumpernickel, bacon on the cheese?  Disgusting!
How many horses have they got in this town? How many young men? 
Nobody knows! They haven't bothered to count 'em! 
That's peace for you! I've been in places where they haven't had a war 
for seventy years and you know what? The people haven't even been given names! 
They don't know who they are! It takes a war to fix that. In a war, 
everyone registers, everyone's name's on a list. Their shoes are stacked,
their corn's in the bag, you count it all up -- cattle, men, et cetera -- 
and you take it away! That's the story: no organization, no war!

Find this quote and others from Brecht here

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