Many thanks to Hanzík for the Czech translations!

moderately geeky  moderately geeky

Case 70


A novice posed this question to master Bawan:

In the morning my master gives me directions.
From the directions, I form an idea.
From the idea, I sketch diagrams on paper.
From the diagrams, I create a model in the designer.
From the model, I generate a skeleton project.
From the skeleton, I enter source code as text.
From the text, the compiler generates bytecode in class files.
From the class files, the build system assembles war files.
From the war files, the deployer creates a web application.

But we are still not done:
Given an application, the virtual machine extracts the bytecode.
Given bytecode, the JIT compiler produces machine language.
Given machine language, the operating system instructs a CPU.
Given instructions, the CPU’s logic gates open or close,
causing electrons to flow this way or that.

At each step, the project is refined, distilled, transformed.
Each step depends on the ones following—
otherwise the program does not function.

So my question is this:
Which of these products is the true software,
and which is the true source?

The master replied:

But we are still not done:
electrons flow this way or that,
tripping other logic gates,
which alter bytes in memory,
which are interpreted as information,
which is displayed on a screen,
which makes a pattern on your retina,
which sends signals to your cortex,
which propagate to your cerebrum,
which forms an idea.

So my answer is this:
Go to the temple courtyard; stand before the oak tree there.
From the branches above, pluck an acorn.
From the earth below, gather wet rotting leaves.
Let your breath mingle with the dew.
Let your sweat moisten the soil.
There remain, until the oak is gone.

Qi’s commentary

When do you mean, when you speak of source? Where do you mean, when you speak of code? The walls of your cubicle are not the horizon. You must look beyond the needs of the day; otherwise your implementation is a hunk of dry bark and you are no better than food for worms.

Qi’s poem

When the oak is gone, the monk is gone, then all things are gone:
Yet this happens in the twinkling of an eye.
Not where, but all places.
Not when, but all times.

Topics...  philosophy