I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By feigned remoteness in the windowpane.
I had a brain, five senses (one unique),
But otherwise I was a cloutish freak.
In sleeping dreams I played with other chaps
But really envied nothing — save perhaps
The miracle of a lemniscate left
Upon wet sand by nonchalantly deft
-Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
The lemniscate is the symbol of infinity, an endlessly traceable sideways figure eight, a twisted ouroboros engaged in an eternal process of renewal.
First called a “horse fetter” by Proclus, 5th century AD Greek philosopher and mathematician, who studied cross sections of tori. Analytically described by Bernoulli as the set of solutions to , where is a fixed real number. First used as a symbol for infinity by John Wallis, a 17th century English mathematician who pioneered the use of infinitesimals and helped prepare the ground for the calculus of Newton and Leibniz; he did not explain his choice. Euler later used an open variant, which has since fallen into disuse.
The lemniscate is source material for writers and artists. Beloved by mystics. Ubiquitous in tarot decks, particularly on the Juggler (Magician), who links Heaven and Earth, and on the Two of Pentacles.
It is the figure idly traced on a tabletop while the mind is wandering elsewhere.
(1) to molder lazily on the couch. (2) to be sloth-like. (3) to lounge purposelessly, often associated with procrastination.