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Elegy for Building 20

Place of work is part of mind,
Memories imprint the wall,
Shabby artifacts recall
Crystal concepts, well-defined.

Down the halls of empty wings
Expurgated rooms extend;
When the wrecker comes, they end,
Broken down to formless things.

I'm not Faust, and will not pray
Time to take the time to dwell;
Status quo is gait of hell.
let those rooms be done away.

Academic monies buy
Only what it pays to know;
Newer fabrications grow
Where the older legends lie.

As the building comes apart,
Driven by a subtler trend,
Means that justify and end
Subsidize the wrecker's art

Past, reknown for past renown,
Cannot generate returns,
Just the interest it earns.
Tear that tattered engram down.

-Professor Emeritus Jerome Lettvin

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 1, 1998.

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