A Mind for Equations

I was determined to be a mathematics major when I first came to university. All throughout high school, I was in love with numbers and the pure simplicity I found in their rules. I had this feeling that my mind was built to calculate integrals and fill chalkboards with equations. I didn’t want to be an engineer or a finance major or anything that used mathematics as a means to an end. I wanted to be a mathematician.

Then I sat in my first week of Calculus III and dropped the course. The professor was older and barely turned around to check on us during class. He spoke so much while looking at the blackboard that I barely caught half of what he said in class anyway. I realized that I didn’t want to suffer my first semester of college and left.

In January, I declared my major as Linguistics. It wasn’t a surprise to my family or friends. I had always been a good communicator, regardless of the subject or people I found myself with. Linguistics felt natural for me. It was a blissful combination of connecting through languages while deconstructing them and finding the math that lay between the words.

Still, I find that math and equations pervade little areas of my life and haunt me like a ghost. I’m in the middle of writing a paper on Zeno’s Motion Paradox. There were 9 other prompts I could have chosen from, but I decided to write about my long lost love, mathematics.

Writing about philosophical mathematics has made me reconsider my approach to how I see the world of pure math. Even when I was deeply impassioned by my work with numbers, I felt a disconnect from reality. Integrals somehow seemed made-up, fake, like a type-A fairy tale. Everything was perfect, orderly, and didn’t deviate from the rules. It didn’t seem to fit with the way the rest of the world worked.

Zeno’s motion paradox made me feel even more so. Although there is significant theoretical evidence to show that Zeno was correct and that we really can’t travel over anything because everything has an infinite amount of points, this doesn’t line up with reality. There is friction and motion and coextension in this world that says otherwise. Zeno’s math is contrary to appearances, yet true in it’s most pure state.

There were two options for me to take when contemplating this idea. Either math is somehow not fully in touch with reality, or everything I know to be true in my conscious self has always and will always be wrong. I couldn’t reconcile the two in a way that satisfied me. It felt like math was only a potential, only a possible perfect truth in a world of definite imperfect realities.

I know that my mind works in too many ways to be perfect for one thing. My thoughts carry me from one idea to another, probably contradicting the former. I can’t seem to maintain only one course of action, I always find that there is more to do. At a time, I found beauty and peace in the ease of math. Follow the rules, perform the calculations, rinse and repeat until you get the right answer. I don’t find peace in the same monotony anymore. Life has proven to be too amazingly tumultuous for me to engage in such a fairy tale so blindly.


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