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Digital Piety

Introduction to "Digital Piety"

The poem below, part of Jeff Lindsay's recent poems, is pretty much a true story. A friend and I in high school memorized a bunch of digits of pi from a book with the first hundred thousand digits of pi. I took a couple photocopied pages from the book with me everywhere for a couple of weeks, and even cheated a bit during Church by focusing on that instead of more spiritual topics. We used our memorized digits it for a couple of silly stunts, miserably failing to impress girls.

The poem is also based on the assumption and belief of many mathematicians that the digits of the number pi are truly random, with the odds of any digit from 0-9 occurring at any place in pi being 1/10 (mathematically, this means that pi is "normal"). Pi appears to behave that way, but it has not been conclusively proven. For details, see "Are the Digits of Pi Random?" from Berkeley Labs or "Pi a la Mode" from Science News. See also "Pi Digits." You can also search for strings of digits in pi and explore its beauty yourself, or just stare at the first 10,000 digits. Finally, see the "Google Directory of Information about Pi."


Digital Piety

When I was fourteen, I cheated God, twice
Stealing from Sunday School to an unused room,
While others learned the King James, I consumed
Another precious text. My quest, to memorize

Photocopied verses from a heavenly find
From the esoteric shelves at Brighton High:
The First Hundred Thousand Digits of Pi
Translated by machine, revealing the divine.

Two weeks, with Sundays, packed with faithful chants:
I prayed a digital rosary to reach my goal,
And etch three hundred digits in my soul.
A geek's stunt for fame, perchance romance,

But the only good impression was on me,
As cheating turned to awe, for to plum pi
With every digit random, is to view eternity.
In this transcendental scroll of unpredictability,

All creation is embraced, for randomness so pure,
Makes sure this prediction: that any given list
Exists somewhere in pi's endless mist of digits.
Code it to music and find every master's score,

Or as text, find any Bible book; or gaze
On its pixels to adore the very face of Christ--
Though the sun fade and new galaxies rise
Before fleet angels find and frame that Place.

Beauty in the chaos, art without design?
The first thousand digits already hint at jewels:
Six nines in a row, teasing statistics' tools
From the opening page: "Seek, and ye shall find."

God is one. But that number is not the end of the story,
For no integer is whole enough to circumscribe His glory.

(Jeff Lindsay, April 25, 2004)


Poetry of Jeff Lindsay

Haiku for lost URLs - on my "Sorry, that URL is missing" page

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Last Updated: Sept. 11, 2005
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