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Rather than six degrees of separation, the Gordian nexus displays five degrees of indirection. That may not be literally true, but it is necessary to respect the Alchemist's Lore, which states that five distillations should be quite enough for anyone. And before the Guild of Alchemists come down on me like a ton of bricks, I feel duty bound to acknowledge that the word "quintessence" has no connection whatsoever with distillation. But "quintessential" is what the Gordian nexus is, will be, or was.

It is to King Gordius of Phrygia and Alexander the Great that we owe any debt of gratitude for this nexus: to the king for his exercise in practical topology, tying the Gordian knot, and to Alexander for, shall we say, solving the puzzle. It is a pity that no details have come down to us of Gordius's immortal problem. And as Alexander's solution is applicable to a whole class of problems, it is pretty certain that the details of the knot are lost for all time. I for one hope, however, that the secret of the Gordian nexus will not long remain undisclosed.

"Nexus" is a word that, in Latin means something pretty close to "knot", a tying or binding together. It is used in Latin to refer, in particular, to a person experiencing a form of bankruptcy where the debtor binds himself in servitude to his creditor ("se nexu obligare"). In English, the sense is almost purely that of a group of connected things. That, of course, is what Everything2 is. Its softlinks, in particular, tend to bind each node into its own nexus. This is its single greatest difference from the WorldWide Web at large. It may be, though, that this node, the Gordian nexus itself, turns out to be somewhat different from the rest. At the time of writing, for whatever reason, the number one softlink is Get dressed NOW or you're going in your underwear. Please let me know if this has changed.

Previous top softlink: books that will induce a mindfuck (on May 9th 2010).

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