Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I found the word ‘Point Omega’ in the article of New York Times (February 17) titled “My life with boxes” written by Anne Biattie, the author of recent work “New Yorker stories,” who loves to collect free cardboard boxes to store her valuables and non-valuables including family albums, books, manuscripts, stained letters, a long ago invitation she couldn’t attend, underwear, socks, 15 nightgowns and so on:

There are actually more socks since last I looked, they’ve expanded in the dresser drawers, and the family albums have apparently been keeping pace with them: my parents’ (deceased; this makes everything more difficult, of course) trip to St. Martin, with no photograph showing their presence. It could be a Don DeLillo novel; it’s my own “Point Omega.” I understand that what I have is the absence of that presence I wish to have. Still: what monster could drop the album in the garbage?

Thanks to her mention of Don DeLillo, I was able to locate where the word, ‘Point Omega’ came from, but I don’t know what it exactly means only from the following quote online as a clue:

If you reveal everything, bare every feeling, ask for understanding, you lose something crucial to your sense of yourself. You need to know things that others don't know. It's what no one knows about you that allows you to know yourself.― Don DeLillo, Point Omega.

Does “Point Omega” mean the core of self-identity i.e., my being? What does it exactly mean?

Is it becoming as popular English word as 'big bang,' '1984' and 'big brother,' or a buzzword as being proudly used in a newspaper article?

share|improve this question
2  
I believe that it is a reversal of Omega Point both in word and concept. –  Dan D. Feb 20 '13 at 4:43
2  
"The title of Don DeLillo’s new novel reverses a concept known as the Omega Point, which was coined by the renegade Catholic thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. ..." themonthly.com.au/… –  Kris Feb 20 '13 at 8:04
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Does “Point Omega” mean the core of self-identity i.e., my being? What doest it exactly mean?

I don't interpret it that way. My best interpretation in the context of the paragraph is that “Point Omega” refers to the stuff she has collected, ostensibly as a remembrance of time and people past, that is in the end recognized as being devoid of life or real meaning — absent of “the presence she wishes to have.” She realizes the collection is unfulfilling.

Dan and Kris have provided excellent links describing the allusion to the reversal of the Omega Point.

Is it becoming a popular English word, or buzz word as being proudly used in a newspaper article?

Certainly not, this is the first I've heard of that particular usage. I think more familiar usage of Omega would be the Alpha and Omega (the beginning and the end.) I suppose there would be those more educated than I who would immediately make the connection with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin or be familiar with Don DeLillo’s novel, but I think this expression is best characterized as obscure.

share|improve this answer
    
Omega meaning end is precisely what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was getting at. –  Jon Hanna Feb 20 '13 at 10:36
add comment

Does “Point Omega” mean the core of self-identity i.e., my being? What doest it exactly mean?

It's a rephrasing of "omega point". Assuming the universe is becoming more complex, and consciousness of its inhabitants (us) is getting greater, the "omega point" is an ultimate end-point (hence "omega point") of this.

In Teilhard's original idea, this was in fact a goal, a purpose of the universe; that it has an essence outside of the universe akin to the idea of "True God from True God".

Later uses, both critical of the general idea of an end point, or agreeing with it, have differed in various ways.

Is it becoming a popular English word, or buzz word as being proudly used in a newspaper article?

It's very common in science fiction, and often associated with the idea of a technological singularity (where our technology advances so far that its intelligence overtakes us and it continues to develop at a rate too rapid for current human minds to understand) or a merging of human consciousness into a single collective consciousness.

(Such ideas differ from Teilhard's in different ways).

However, in this case, note that she says it could be a Don DeLillo novel; she doesn't say it could be an Arthur C Clarke novel, or a Dan Simmons novel, both of who have taken the idea in much less individual ways.

Consider how DeLillo writes of how objects becoming cultural artefacts become totally divorced from their original purpose (think of his "most photographed barn in America", which is self-sustaining as the most photographed barn in America, because people go to see it and take photographs of it, because it is the most photographed barn in America; "Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.").

The objects Biattie has no longer serve as their original purpose - she does not wear the socks or shoes, or use the paperclips - but have become personal equivalents of the most photographed barn in America; they're her things, and she owns them because they're her things, and for no reason relating to their designed purpose. The personal significance of them has reached its own self-sustaining loop, that is an end-point; it must be an end-point, because it's self-sustaining quality means it will never become anything else.

This would not be a general use of the phrase, but it does make sense in context.

share|improve this answer
    
If the term is very common in science fiction, where is it used? Because I've never seen it before. –  outis nihil May 28 at 14:19
1  
@outisnihil well, the novel Omega Point used it. The Omega Point Trilogy also used it, but with a completely different meaning. Since the concept is sometimes used but under a different name, it can be hard to bring examples to mind, though Fall of Hyperion certainly used the original term, since it quite memorably also had Teilhard canonised in the future and one of the characters having written "treatises on St. Teilhard" and the Omega Point theory. –  Jon Hanna May 28 at 14:27
add comment

Is it becoming a popular English word? No. Maybe it's well known in some sub-culture. Personally I have never heard the phrase before. I see Jon Hanna says "it's very common in science fiction". I read and watch a lot of science fiction and as I say, I've never heard the term before, so even there, I don't think it's all that common. (Or maybe he just means that the IDEA is common in science fiction, not necessarily this particular phrase to describe it.) Note that the passage you quote found it necessary to reference the novel and the author, which implies they didn't think the reference would be immediately recognized either. I certainly would not use the term without an explanation.

share|improve this answer
1  
I also read and watch a lot of Science Fiction and have never heard of the phrase. –  Rupe May 28 at 14:13
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.