Literary Lines–July 2

“There is a type of problem in organic chemistry called a retrosynthesis.  You are presented with a compound that does not occur in nature, and your job is to work backward, step by step, and ascertain how it came to exist–what sort of conditions led to its eventual creation.  When you are finished, if done correctly, the equation can be read normally, making it impossible to distinguish the question from the answer.

I still think that everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a singular tragic encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.  That moment is the catalyst–the first step in the equation.  But knowing the first step will get you nowhere–it’s what comes after that determines the result.”

–from page 11 of Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything

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