Sunday, April 10, 2011

What can mathematics do?

For many, mathematics offers interpretive links between a mind and the truths it seeks to know,  the same role that a story plays in this poem -- "Story Water" -- by Jelaluddin Balkhi Rumi (1207 - 1273). 
     Story Water     by Rumi

     A story is like water
     that you heat for your bath.

     It takes messages between the fire
     and your skin. It lets them meet,  

     and it cleans you!

     Very few can sit down
     in the middle of the fire itself
     like a salamander or Abraham.
     We need intermediaries.

     A feeling of fullness comes,
     but usually it takes some bread

     to bring it.

     Beauty surrounds us,
     but usually we need to be walking

     in a garden to know it.

     The body itself is a screen
     to shield and partially reveal
     the light that's blazing inside your presence.

     Water, stories, the body,

     all the things we do, are mediums
     that hide and show what's hidden.

    Study them,
     and enjoy this being washed

     with a secret we sometimes know,
     and then not.

     "Story Water, " translated by Coleman Barks, is found in The Essential Rumi  by Jelaluddin Rumi. 
     Continuing with the theme of mathematics as an interpretive link between the mind and external realities:  a bit of humor concerning the roles and limitations of numbers  may be found in a recent cartoon -- "Pain Rating" -- by Randall Munroe at his blog,


  1. I love the idea behind this website, and the content! Wonderful poems here, and I so appreciate the link between two things that I am connected to: math and poetry (art). I'm going to be just starting my first year as a math teacher in June. I'm excited, and have always needed poetry and the arts to keep me inspired as a person :)

  2. Thanks, Veena.
    Many good wishes in your teaching. I hope you will love it a lot.
    If you have any math-poems to share, please let me know.