Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Art of Math

             I lie quietly in the warmth of my blankets, watching the daylight filtering in through the blinds on my window, composed and ready for the new day. Then, the all-invasive, ungodly noise of my alarm sounds, and the few gorgeous moments of perfection when everything seems possible are broken.

            Still, I throw the blankets off with enough enthusiasm, and head out into the real world.

An hour or so later..things start to go bad.

          It’s 8:30 in the morning, and I’m hunched over my desk while a bald old man, with a big smile and slightly-offensive jokes, rambles on and on in a language I just don’t understand. Math.

           All around me, puffy-eyed and burnt-out looking college students peer short-sightedly at the board (as if looking harder and longer at those dizzying symbols is going to magically make them understand what the hell is going on).

          Me, I dutifully take notes on unintelligible (and often one-sided) conversations between the teacher and the worried-looking students up front, while doodling distorted math-y symbols on the edges of my paper.

One time, I even write a poem. Not a very good one, but a poem nonetheless.

        When my hour of torture is up, I quickly walk away, not wanting to fraternize with the other inmates. A little while later, I bump into some friends, and then all hell breaks lose.

        “I hate math...No, really I hate it. I HATE MATH!!!”

To this, I get a few glares -sometimes they are sighs- but no replies. Everyone I know has given up arguing with me - they have left me to rant and rot in my irrationality. For really, they are the rational ones, and I am the irrational one. Why do I even take math if I hate it and complain about it so much?

Why do I take a Calculus class if I’m not a math person, and if it’s not even a requirement for graduation? Why do I take a class that I so obviously hate if no one is forcing me to take it?

These are all questions, I asked myself and others asked me even as I wailed about integrals, derivatives, and axes.

            It took me a while to figure it out, but I think that I’m drawn to math because it is so mechanical, and perfect, and logical: all those characteristics that are not present in the real world. Math is always truthful - there are no opinions, and perspectives, and paradigms here - it’s all about the truth.

           This subject of absolute truth is exactly the opposite of the subject of art, and the exact opposite of the world. But can an entire subject exist devoid of art?
           I want to find the art in math - the flowing, the irrational, the innately human art of math, and I think I’m already starting to find it.
           Far from being the creatively devoid formulaic subject, math has some amount of flexibility to it. And its furthest reaches, on the very edge of our math knowledge, exist quirks and faults where all rules are abandoned, and the numbers are just as unpredictable as humans. 

Infinities collide, and seemingly normal curves twist into psychedelic shapes. It feels like we’ve only been dealing with elementary math for so long where everything is so obvious - just like how the alphabets are logical and true, but when put together they can really create art...Maybe the new edges of mathematical knowledge are what really matter, and even thinking about it is quite exciting (though I would hardly consider boring ol’ Calculus a thought-provoking subject...but maybe further down the line or if I just look closer, I’ll be able to see uncanny and slightly crooked connections and quirks).