December 30, 2004


mantegna solomon.jpg

This etching by Mantegna, from the Met, illustrates this story:

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, "My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 "During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son-and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn't the son I had borne."
22 The other woman said, "No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours."
But the first one insisted, "No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine." And so they argued before the king.
23 The king said, "This one says, 'My son is alive and your son is dead,' while that one says, 'No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.' "
24 Then the king said, "Bring me a sword." So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other."
26 The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!"
But the other said, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!"
27 Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother."
28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. 1 Kings 3

I always thought that the point of the story was that Solomon had found a way to determine who had given birth to this child. Now it seems to me that he has invented a way of determining who should raise the child. He has rejected an unanswerable question and replaced it with one that can be answered.

String theory says there are 11 dimensions. When pressed to explain that, physicists say: in two dimensions, there is more freedom of movement than in one dimension. In three dimensions, there is more freedom of movement than in two dimensions. Just extend that thought to 11 dimensions. Wisdom is sometimes about finding unexpected freedom of movement in a situation that had seemed totally constrained.

Posted by shea0017 at December 30, 2004 6:33 PM