“The Girl Who Loved Infinity”
Pure mathematics is an art.
It is an art of numbers and symbols
formulas and concepts
to the physics of life
the iterative shape of a leaf
the path it floats from tree to ground
the science of a multitude of planets
orbiting the stars
integrals and series
because when first discovered
first dreamt up – they can’t always be
the theory precedes the application
sometimes by a hundred years.
Mathematicians are artists.
They see glimpses of the future
that so few living ever appreciate
and even less
I like to be appreciated
To be understood
I am afraid to tell the future – because
what if I get it wrong?
What if I get it wrong and that first I carry in my back pocket
comes to nothing
nothing but loneliness
because to not be appreciated,
to not be understood,
Last night I saw ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ and I was so moved. It was a truly beautiful film. Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel were brilliant! I highly recommend it.
I am perhaps a little biased though, because I have a degree in mathematics. It is a subject I have always loved dearly. As I’ve grown older, I’ve drifted further and further away from it, and it is a deep source of sadness for me. To have once loved something so dear and to each day be walking away from it.
To have today’s prompt, of writing a line you are afraid to write, follow last night’s viewing, inspired this poem. That ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’, whether one credits it to Socrates or Plato, I hold it to be true. Why do I not return to my beloved pure mathematics?
I loved infinity well before John Green’s ‘Some infinities are bigger than other infinities’ – though I respect him infinitely more as a writer for bringing such a beautiful concept to a broad young audience. I loved mathematics enough to write a thesis on it – to strive for and achieve a first class honours! I loved it so much I chose it over and again above writing, above music, above all my other passions.
But I have let it go, and though I look back, and consider, and wonder if I will ever return – I see the loneliness my peers have endured. One spends years on a PhD, and few that do achieve that accomplishment then follow it with a life of academia. Academics can spend their days working on a theory that maybe ten people in the world will ever truly understand in their lifetime. This is near inconceivable now that the population of the world has cracked 7 billion.
So to all the mathematicians out there, artists working in a language all their own that transcends nationality, bridges the past and the future, and unlocks so many mysteries of the universe – I salute you. You are far braver than I. Maybe one day, I’ll find my way back to you again.
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
~ Marie Curie