"Do you hear that sound? That's your yarn...it's crying"~ Magenta Sequins

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

the Magic Number

not too long after I started knitting, I found a great pattern i wanted to use to make a Coffee Cup Cozy, but the yarn & needles I had would've yielded a much bigger cozy (think: Super Big Gulp Cozy). now, I'd read that patterns could be altered using ratios and measurement and gauge but had no idea how to do that. naturally, I asked my better half, since he's as fluent in math as the last president was at hate-mongering. it took me ten minutes to explain what i wanted to do, ten to explain what my knitting books were telling me to do and five for him to figure out the ratio of what I had versus what I wanted, and how I could get what I wanted with what I had. oh and another fifteen for him to explain it all to me (during which, I swear-to-god he started talking backwards just to fuck with me). at the end of the entire process I was no closer to understanding how he figured out the answer, but I was convinced my husband was truly a Hot Gay Nerd with Great Magical Powers.

math, I'm convinced, is magic; a strange and potent magic, written in the language of numbers. like any other kind of magic, some people understand and are adept at it and some people are hopeless muggles. I fall into the latter category.

I 'get' simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, but when talk turns to ratios and percentages and fractions (specifically their addition, subtraction and multiplication), that's where I will swear that something mystical is taking place.
higher math, like algebra, geometry, calculus and other stuff I barely passed in high school, is even more arcane and mysterious. most algebra problems...with their variables and parenthetical equations... look to me, like the recipe to turn lead into gold; 'sine', 'cosine' and 'tangent' may as well be 'bibbity bobbity boo'. I remember looking at classmates and wondering, "how do you understand this? the teacher isn't speaking English"!

see, I'm not 'stupid', I'm just scared of numbers; as surely as I'm scared of bugs and clowns and bridges. okay...maybe not in exactly the same way. lets just say I severely mistrust numbers in the same way i mistrust the Russians, Log Cabin Republicans and any gay movie netflix swears I'll love.
the thing is, math (like the 1st two), is cold and emotionless; utterly devoid of poetry or true beauty. it's also (paradoxically unlike the 1st two) inherently incapable of lying or falsehood. a mathematical product is what it is, and is subject to no man's interpretation.

I'm a word guy (contrary to what my Words With Friends opponents may tell you). words define how i think and process information; words are how i define my world and experiences. human beings have, over the millennia, crafted millions of words, each as distinct and particular in meaning and intention as a crayon in the super-huge box of Crayolas. with those words, humans can either create the verbal equivalent of stick figures or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. me? I'm kinda like a Garfield comic. numbers and math have no such subtlety or ability to create.

that's not to say that I think they're useless; quite the opposite, actually. they're great tools for creation. bridges get built on numbers, computers run on them like gas and they're the reason I get paid twice a month; even in my new hobby, knitting, numbers and math are essential. math really is everywhere, all around us, all the time. that doesn't mean I understand it any better. like The Force and other forms of magic it's just waiting for those who can understand it, to tap into its power.

there's a reason the word 'mathematician' sounds an awful lot like 'mad magician'.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

uh huh.
my thoughts eggzactly!

agreed in whole by yur most favorite gurly vampire

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