Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Balancing an Equation

     I grew up on a farm and spent my middle life in a small town and now live in a city.  A sort of immigrant.  A farm girl who became a professor.  A balancing act.
     Some years back, one of my math department colleagues posted on his office door a quote from George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) :   

     The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists 
     in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends 
     on the unreasonable man.

At one time I much agreed with the Shaw quote.  Now (perhaps because I am older or because I now live near to Washington, DC and contentious party politics) I am more admiring of balance than unreasonableness.  Here is a lovely poem by Caroline Caddy about balance and numbers. 

Equation     by Caroline Caddy

Someone said
                 that working through difficult equations
was like walking
in a pure and beautiful landscape –
                                              the numbers glowing
                                                           like works of art. 
And in the same crowded room
a woman I thought I didn’t like
                                               was singing to herself –
talking and listening
                                          but singing to herself too
and instantly
                        with the logic of numbers
                                                                       I liked her
as if she had balanced something
I couldn’t.
The corridors are long and pristine
                                                          but I’m not lost –
just working
         towards some minute
                                                 or overwhelming

Caddy's poem is from Esperance (Fremantle Press, Australia, 2007).

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