Math is the big purple spotted skeleton lurking in my mental closet, something to be avoided whenever possible and approached with extreme caution only when dire circumstances force me into it.
Math-minded freaks friends of mine have tried to convince me of it’s beauty. “It’s absolute,” they say, “It’s definite. 1 + 1 = 2. It has the same answer no matter who you are or where you’re from. It’s a universal language.”
For years I smiled politely and excused myself as one who did not know the language. But it bothered me, the not knowing. So I am going back and learning all the evil math I never quite understood before (This is step 2 of #28 on my 30 before 30 list) and I’ve discovered that it’s not so bad once you understand the rules…but I still don’t like it, because the biggest, most horrible thing about math is that you have to accept the way things are.
At face value.
Without getting the background story.
That is nearly impossible for me; in fact, I get a little twitchy just writing about it. You see, I exist in the world of “Why” – it is where I live and breath and find my meaning. Why does this happen if I do that? Why did the author choose those words, that setting? Why does this song twist my heartstrings but that one doesn’t? Why did this friend choose make this choice instead of that? (Truth be told, I am far less concerned about what people do than why they do it.)
There’s no room for that in math. In fact, I think math is the ultimate exercise of faith. In order to succeed and find the right answers, I must believe that 1 + 1 = 2. If I believe, then it’s fine. (Heck, if I believe, I can stretch my mind to accept that 2/5 + 3/5 = 1…)
But what if I ask, “Why? WHY does 1 + 1 = 2?”
The answer is, “Because.”
Because somebody, somewhere, decided that one of this and one of that equalled something else and they called it two.
For the sake of my grades, I can choose to accept this and work within the reality of it. But it makes me grumpy, because what I really want isn’t to find the answer to the math problem glaring up at me…what I really want is to find that person who created “two” and ask them, “Why? What was your thought process here? What motivated you? Why did you decided to do it THIS way?”
Now that would be interesting.
But I have no wish to meet whoever decided that multiplying two negatives equals a positive but adding two negatives doesn’t. I have nothing to say to them.
At least, nothing civil.