Tag Archives: math

First


You need an odd number of transitions
to have an even number of passages—
life’s hilarious that way.

Even and odd, over and on,
it’s a mystery how it all hangs together:
how tension works and release comes,
how rhythms are the heart of us
and we the heart of our rhythms.
So become: suffer, weep, despair, rise or fall,
it really doesn’t matter. But be.


Thank you for reading First. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being such an example from a poem originally entitled Over and on; the other portion of that original work is now posted as A mathematical kōan.

The photograph was taken in my hometown of Putnam, Connecticut; it is one of two ‘road’ images, one each for this poem and its sibling. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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A mathematical kōan


Imaginary numbers—‘i’ for short—are real,
the square roots of negative numbers;
impossible, true, but stay with me on this one
because now it’s getting personal.

But the biggest surprise is nothing: zero/nada/nil,
which is neither even nor odd
but more “what-it-is” than “what-it-is-not.”
And what it is, is an emptiness and a doubt,
an exhale so deep it becomes its own lasting misery
where you’re left hanging by your diminishing beliefs:
an odd looking for an even
or an even looking for an odd,
or an ‘i’, if that’s what wanders by.

Imaginary numbers are real, but not ‘real numbers’. Here’s the issue:

The square root of a number x is any number that when multiplied by itself () equals x. Thus, 2² = 4, and -2² = 4; or, put another way √4 = ±2.

Now think about -4. The issue is that -4 = -2 * 2 (or its reciprocal 2 * -2)  and -2 and 2 are different numbers, so √-4 has no solution. Not so fast! say mathematicians and engineers, who very effectively use (in the development of electronics, for example) “imaginary” or “i” numbers, where √-4 = 2i and 2i² = -4. Algebraically, that works, although there is no real sense to it. However, your electronic stuff built on the principle of imaginary numbers is, I promise you, very real. 🙂

Not that any of this matters; this is not a poem about mathematics, it is a poem about a paradoxical puzzle. (Either that or bad writing; you chose.)

Thank you for reading A mathematical kōan. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being such an example. The other portion of that original poem is posted separately as the poem First.

The photograph was taken in the Poconos of Pennsylvania; it is one of two ‘road’ images, one each for this poem and its sibling. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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If only

Végre nem butulok tovább
is Hungarian for,
“I’ve finally stopped getting dumber.”
If only, I thought…

If only that were true I
would not fool me so often—
shame, double shame on me.

If only that were true I
would not calculate so dear
the zero sum gain of a
positive sum want.

If only that were true I
would, instead, invest in the
future and not in the past
and sum the effort
overcoming what is me,
knowing this to be
the final truth of the heart.

If only.

The quotation that starts this poem came from a posting on the excellent essay blog, the Bully Pulpit, about Paul Erdős, one of the  most brilliant and prolific mathematicians of the twentieth century. Erdős proposed the line as his epitaph, and really, how can you not admire someone with that sense of humor? Or honesty.

The title of this poem was my immediate reaction to the quotation. It still is. It probably always will be.

Thank you for reading If only. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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The circle

The edge is divisible
in the many to the whole,
the total where you are from
and where you will go;
the infinite, graceful arcs wrap the center,
proclaiming their love to the heart.

To God that I was so perfect!

The 360° in a circle is evenly divisible by many numbers, nine out of the first ten, for example. (The exception is seven.) But it is the perfection of the circle surrounding its focal point that attracts me to it as a metaphor.

Thank you for reading The circle. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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