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Pi Man


Mario V. Farina

Copyright 2017 Mario V. Farina

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Mario V. Farina

Email: mario@mariofarina.com

My name is William Harrison. I'm a psychiatrist. I work in the Psychiatric Ward of Alfred Hospital in Gainesville, Maryland. It was about three years ago that I met a person who had been introduced to me as Pi Man. I never knew his real name.

He had been brought to the hospital by the police and I was to interview him and give a report concerning his sanity. He was brought to my office. There is a picture at the front of this story showing what he looked like at that time. He was wearing a hood and carrying a crystal ball with red and white splotches inside. His eyes flashed through the eyeholes of the hood in a ghastly manner. He was unshaven.

"You are Pi Man?" I asked.

"That is what I'm called." He responded in a hollow voice.

"Why are you here?"

"They think I am insane," he responded.

"Why is that?"

"I am obsessed with the value of pi," he said.

"3.1416!" I gave the only value of pi that I recalled from grade school.

"It begins with 3.14159265," he responded. "The number of decimal places is unlimited."

"I suppose that means that the number of decimal places is infinite," I said. "Does that bother you?"

"Very much!"


"According to what I have been told," he said, "even though the decimal places exist, I cannot ever know all of them."

"That is what is meant by infinite," I suggested.

"I will not accept that," he responded. "That is why I purchased the crystal ball that I have with me. I felt that if they existed I should find them there."

"You had no success?" I asked.

Pi Man was beginning to get agitated. "They are there in the ball, I can see many of them but not all."

"Why does that bother you?"

"Because I must know what they are!"

"Why must you know?"

"Because they are there! Because I will not accept that I cannot ever know all of them."

"There is an infinite number of them," I said. "It is impossible to know all of them when there are an infinite in number of them. We are dealing with infinity. The human mind cannot reach all of what is infinite in nature."

"I will not accept that!" he said.

The rest of the interview yielded nothing. Finally, I had to release him back to the police. The report I wrote was brief. It simply said that I had made no headway with the interview. I reported that I found him weird, obsessed with the digits of pi, but not insane.

I did not hear anything more about him during the ensuing years. However, when my family and I made a trip across the country one year, we were passing through a small town named Benton. We saw signs indicating there was a visitors' attraction the Benton museum. The sign said, "While in Benton, be sure to view, Pi Man working at the oddest endeavor ever attempted!" It was the first time I had heard about Pi Man since I interviewed him. I, and my family went to observe him.

We found the museum easily. We entered through the front door. Immediately in view, was a weird-looking man. He was wearing a hood and holding a crystal ball. His attention was focused on the ball. The room was barren except for a plain wooden chair in which the man was sitting. I recognized him at once as the man that had been introduced to me as Pi Man. He was muttering to himself. At first what he was saying was unintelligible. However, as I got closer, I could better understand what he was saying. He was uttering digits. I listened for a while, as he said the digits 8, 3, 7, 2, and more. I had no idea what he was doing.

An individual dressed in a business suit came and said, "Welcome to Benton. We charge no admission; however, you can leave a donation at the door if you wish."

"What is this man doing," I asked.

"He is receiving the values of pi from some unknown source. He has been sitting in that chair for several years, never rising, never eating or drinking, never sleeping, simply sitting, reciting digit after digit after digit. He has been in that chair for years!"

"How can he survive without eating, drinking, and sleeping?" I asked.

"We do not know," replied the man.

"How did it happen that he is with you?" I asked.

"He was passing through Benton, and he met with a psychic that we have in town, Ms. Allen Williams. He talked to her, and they seemed to have come to some agreement that was never fully made known to us. He was brought here, seated in that chair, and left alone. As he stared at the insides of the ball, he began reciting the digits of pi beginning with 3, point, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9, and so on. Minutes passed, then hours, then days. He has been there ever since, year after year, without ever leaving that chair. The never speaks to anyone. His only interest is to stare into the ball and recite digits. We believe he is mentally storing digits in that ball!"

"This is astonishing," I said. "Do you mean what you are saying literally?"

"Absolutely," he responded. "He seems to be receiving values of pi on a continuing basis. I have written down some of the digits that he has mentioned, and looked them up on the Internet. One of the web sites on the Internet has a listing with ten million digits, and we have found that the digits he received are among those millions. He has been written up in major newspapers, but this has never drawn much attention to this town. However, from time to time, we do receive small donations from visitors such as you and your family."

"How long do you suppose, he will continue doing what he is doing," I asked.

"Until he has received all the digits that there are!"

"The number of digits is infinite," I said.

"We know that."

"How long will you allow him to continue doing what he is doing?" I asked.

"As long as it takes," he responded.

"Even, an infinite amount of time?" I asked.

"If that's what it takes!" he responded.

"Why?" I queried incredulously.

"We are convinced the digits of pi need to be published after he has received them all," he said. "We plan to do it at that time."

Note: The author invites you to see him read this story on Youtube. Open Youtube and search for "Mario Farina reads Pi Man".

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