Mathematics, kindness, and curiosity

The beautiful mathematics text, Visual Complex Analysis, sits atop a stack of books close by the table and calls to me like a Siren’s song. I would dearly love to lose myself in its elegant mathematical constructions, but I dare not, for it will absorb all my attention for the rest the day except for thoughts of V.

I must discipline myself to study a little mathematics each day rather than go on long hedonistic binges that capture all my time. At the end of the day I’ll crack open Visual Complex Analysis and sip from it.

I would like to write a mathematics text. The subject would be elementary geometry in the complex plane and would use transformations in the plane as the starting point. I have only a fuzzy notion as to how the thing would go. I would not do it for any useful purpose except to stoke my vanity. Once I completed the book, I would have a few copies printed at a vanity press. I might even stock it at in the oft chance someone might buy it for a pittance. I would dedicate it to V. When I die, it might survive the dissolution and dispersal of my library. One day, someone schooled in mathematics might find it and read it. She might even enjoy the way I said a thing they know in a different way. She would look for my name in the university rolls of mathematicians, but not find it there. I would be an enigma to her for the rest of her life.

I remarked last night to V that life did not seem to be about the large events that happen to us, but an accumulation of the small kindnesses and generosities we give each other. I see V that way, someone doling out small kindnesses and generosities that eventually sum to a large amount.

Intellectual curiosity seems like that too. We gather small bits of knowledge about those subjects that please us. The most adept manage their time and organize their work. The sloppy souls, such as me, try to drink as much as we can in large gulps, then once satiated we slide into indolence until the next binge. Whatever the efficiency of the exercise, the small drafts over time add to something far larger than we expected as if the whole is indeed larger than the sum of the parts.

Intellectual curiosity seems connected to our ability to make metaphors, for we know a subject when it supplies the parts of the useful metaphors we create. Today I feel the truth of that opinion as a certainty. I lump it with my other feelings of what happen rather than try to explain it analytically to myself. And why not, I am well rested, receptive to drifting and dreaming. I enjoy these dreams that are pretty to me.

Published in: on March 13, 2008 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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