Feynman Asserts Unreality

I. Suspended in place, not far at all,
Is the brainwave that made Angels fall,
Before Time could walk or crawl.
(Some things are best not to recall.)

Mankind, much later, had some thoughts
Meant to be taken in heavy draughts.
Stranger than an infinite number of naughts
Is the spell which herein shall be taught:

A philosopher claimed he could refute
Any proposition, or any dispute,
Anything you might care to impute,
Pushed back by the words at the end of the route.

More profound words were sometimes writ,
But that’s part of the tricky bit:
The hidden knife of the human wit
Disdains both Hell and the Firmament.

What is it, then, this curse of Negation?
Feynman’s Universal Refutation
And it’s earned an ominous reputation
As frustrating those who sought disputation.

Your thoughts might roar and your thoughts might slink,
You might write them down using blood for ink,
But here’s the maelstrom which causes your ship to sink –
Five words:

Ah, that’s what YOU think!”

II. If you these words too humble deem
Note that perception’s a jumbled stream.
The world’s more things than it might seem
How many solid things have turned to steam?

The Earth’s not flat. But there’s a “but”:
It’s not round either. (Wait. Wait. Wait. What?!?)
It’s an oblate spheroid. (No, I’m not a nut.)
And even THAT case isn’t open and shut…

The Earth likely goes ’round the Sun.
And two and two probably ain’t “one”.
But many thoughts are hardened before they’re quite done,
And end up half-baked, or poorly-spun.

Fewer things than you think are Totally Immutable.
Not everything is Wholly Computable.
Quite a lot of the world is Rather Inscrutable.
More stuff than you’d think is Quite Refutable.



The more your metaphysics are “certain”,
The sooner your cosmology will be hurtin’,
When the Wizard draws back the Curtain,
Who KNOWS what reality will be assertin’?

Beware! For Toxic Certainty
Is stone-dead, like a petrified tree
It tells you the world must a certain way be
But the truth is: it ain’t, necessarily.

~Jeff Mach


This quote’s from a short story in one of Dr. Richard Feynman’s autobiographies; I think it’s “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” There’s a brief bit wherein Dr. Feynman has a dream in which he refutes every piece of accepted knowledge with a single, authoritative statement. In the book, it seems to be a bit of a joke to him, as it’s the punchline of that particular story. And it is a joke, but it’s also quite real. You can refute just about anything, simply by refusing to believe it. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s the spirit which told the Wright Brothers that heavier-than-air aviation was possible, leading to modern aviation; it’s also the spirit which informed thousands of years of people jumping from great heights while covered with feathers, leading to quite a lot of feather-covered corpses.

My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.

I write books. You should read them!

I put on a convention for Villains every February.

I created a Figmental Circus. It’s happening this June. You should go!

Jeff Mach Written by:

Jeff Mach is an author, playwright, event creator, and certified Villain. You can always pick up his bestselling first novel, "There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN"—or, indeed, his increasingly large selection of other peculiar books. If you'd like to talk more to Jeff, or if you're simply a Monstrous Creature yourself, stop by @darklordjournal on Twitter, or The Dark Lord Journal on Facebook.