Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Top Ten

Until now, I've never given this any thought. But reading the last lines of Manfred Rommel's NYT obituary (the son of the famous German General, The Desert Fox), has made me wonder: if it is written in stone, and you run out of stone, do you use the other side?

Think 10 Commandments. Were they only on one side of the tablet, or were they on both sides? And are there only 10 because God only wanted one side used, or one tablet used, and didn't want anyone, notably Moses, to be lugging two or more pieces of stone around?

If the prevailing ancient publishing wisdom was to use only one side, and the text was going to spill over, was the stone stylus changed for another, smaller size? Did this produce messages written in stone that grew smaller as you got to the bottom of the stone? Somewhat like those pre-printed legal documents that require a magnifying glass as you reach the bottom of the pages.

The whole question is not as silly as you might think. There is going to be a need for a modern day answer to the question of how much gets written in stone on the gravestone for Mr. Rommel.

Mr. Rommel grew to be a respected, oftentime elected mayor of Stuttgart, and an international figure who received many, many honors of recognition for his outreach work.

It is this number of honors that caused Manfred Rommel to reflect at some point at how many might be inscribed on his tombstone. He knew there were so many that if they were all listed there would be a need at the bottom to alert the reader to, "Please turn over."

In a cemetery, on a gravestone, these instructions might easily confuse the living. Never mind the dead.

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