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A Poem at the Edge of Reality

In the beginning an immortal goddess explained reality to a mortal man. Or at least, she tried. She told him to be silent and just listen to her words, and so that’s what he did. All we know about her message comes from a poem that he wrote and that has been a source of deep fascination for intellectuals ever since. It attempts to describe an experience and a blinding insight at the very limit of what words can express – he met the goddess in a strange place at the edge of reality where he heard things that seemed impossible to refute and yet impossible to accept. His name was Parmenides. He lived around twenty-five centuries ago and came from a town called Elea on the coast of southern Italy. As for the goddess, she never gave him her name.          Western culture begins with deities and their messages to human beings. Often enough, what they had to say just reflected what people already knew or believed, but in a few rare and precious cases there is something strikingly original abo

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