Yesterday was Pi Day. As in the number you get when you divide the distance around a circle (its circumference) by the distance across (the diameter). Or 3.14159265358979323846 26433832795028841971. For starters. Apparently, in 2002, a Japanese computer scientist found 1.24 trillion digits of pi. That calls for a mighty big calculator.
Math was my first love: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, beginning calculus. Always my best subject, right after chatting. Math homework made me giddy with joy, to sit down with a page of numbers, sort through them, watch them go from unconnected, meaningless numbers to relationship, resolution. A right answer is a thing of beauty. Not only is there is always a right answer, it’s always the same right answer. Even if I got a problem wrong, I loved the explanation of the problem. I loved having the light-bulb go off, to see the magic revealed. I am practically misty-eyed writing about the beauty of mathematics. No joke.
"One of the most endearing and enduring qualities of humans is that
we’re so often sure that we can find the answer to any problem if we
just try hard enough…"
Because, no matter what else is going on in the world, no matter who is president, no matter if I’m a tad pudgy, no matter if the sun refused to shine, even if Oprah got canceled, 2 + 2 always = 4. Always. If you need to count on something, count on arithmetic.
I loved math so much, it was my first major in college. Imagine my huge disappointment to discover they don’t offer fun high school calculus in college. No. They offer a form of calculus that doesn’t have any math in it at all!!! Someone should warn people about this. It knocked me unconscious. The teacher’s lips were moving, sounds were emanating, but I didn’t understand any of it. You couldn’t find 2 + 2 in that room anywhere. Theorems and abstract quantum thingies had me in a fetal position in no time. My brain don’t work like that.
That first year in college was completely overwhelming anyway. First time away from Winchester, everything was outside the box. Discovering there were people in the world who were neither black nor white, that men wore dresses in other parts of the world, that there were a whole bunch of people called Jews who didn’t – you’d better sit down for this – believe that Jesus was the son of God… The list of new ideas presented to me outside the classroom goes on and on. To have math, my safe haven, so utterly destroyed for me was icing on the cake. By happy coincidence, that was the year I first felt the heat of a spotlight and heard applause. Leaving calculus for the stage was a no-brainer.
Math still holds a hot place in my heart. Because no matter how confusing the world gets, I can always ground myself with 2 + 2. It’s like touching my wall, confirming my reality. The mysteries of pi, like Fibonacci‘s sequence and his golden ratio, phi, give me hope. Even though I can’t figure them out, someone did. Someone saw.
"Pi Day is a time to honour not just a number and our fascination with
it, but also the essential truth that there are some things we simply
cannot know… pi is an ever-present,
sometimes grating reminder that there are puzzles that can be solved
and there are mysteries that, perhaps, can not."