Nonhuman friends like the Coast Redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, know how to drink the darkness of fog to make for us small creatures -a breath of amazement- dappled sunlight higher above us than any other creature’s making. They do not mind who walks below them, or what goes on in our human minds with such heaviness. Sequoia sempervirens does not mind, nor has care of mind, nor thinks in the worries of mammalian minds at all. No mind, doesn’t mind.
Laying down, reading a book about evil and God,
two insects wrestle on the ground below my eyes
while another carries her dead comrade away.
and the ants– what devotion they show me.
Obscure, so near to them,
an incomprehensible cloud.
poetry and photography by Gentle J. Pine
I’m an ex-cradle-born-Unitarian Universalist for good reasons. I’m politically moderate. I converted to sparkly Roman Catholicism at age 21. I am Jewish-curious, and am deeply attracted by their cohesive peoplehood and long, honorable struggle with a crazy God. When I was 22, I did something like animism and nature-based rites of passage in a community, but that community didn’t stick, even though the spirituality sure did. I don’t believe in fairies, I believe in birds. I don’t believe in unicorns, I believe in equines. I don’t believe in dragons, I believe in reptiles. The World is what’s real. Prayers and spells don’t save you; human research and evidence-based practices do, but a really grounded spirituality makes it all worth living through. Now I’m a scientific panentheist (is it really necessary to differentiate between pantheist and panentheist? Really?) who believes in a Creator that lives, breathes and moves in all created beings. I don’t claim that this Creator is always or ever going to do as we wish, or can even be trusted the conventional sense, though it can be greatly loved in its wildness. Nature is violent, insane and unjust, and we have every reason to think that any Creator who wrought it might be the same way. But Nature is also, simultaneously, beautiful, life-giving and deeply good. And so the same must be for this mysterious Creator. Such is life on earth. Sometimes I wish I were born in an Animist hunter-gatherer tribe of 30,000 years ago. Then again, I’m grateful for the gift of reason, evidence, vaccines, the internet and refrigerators. What I want most of all is a real tribe I can belong to. I wander, but I am not lost.
The + sign means “together with”.
Together with God, with each other,
with the strings
of the atom.
crosses and circles.
“Adding a negative
is the same
is the same
What do you call it when the starting number is 1? The way some people count “age 1” upon birth? Different cultural thoughts about math. Ethnomathematics.
How can zero be a number if it doesn’t exist? What is this thing of existence representing what is not in existence at all? By giving a name to what doesn’t exist, do we then make it exist is some way?
If zero represents nothing, how can it exist? Is it something that exists in and of itself, this nothingness? Zero is deceptive. It sure looks like a whole number, being all roundish and ovular wholesome, but in truth there is a sneaking black hole right through the middle of it. Is zero something that exists? The symbol 0 exists, but if it represents nothing, is that a something? How can a “nothing” have such a strong effect? Does nature abhor a zero? For being an ostensible nothing-at-all, Zero sure does cause a lot of trouble when you try to divide something by it.
“Any number divided by zero is undefined,” they say. If Johnny has 5 apples and he divides them by nothing at all, but instead keeps them united, (indivisible apples, undivided) then wouldn’t the result be, well, no different than what he started out with? Dividing by nothing should be the same as not dividing at all. Or perhaps Johny would have 1, meaning 1 group of apples, because they are undivided, because you can only divide something by a number other than 1, so diving by 0 would be, in fact, un-dividing. Johnny still has 5 undivided apples, or 1 group of them. That’s reality. Sounds pretty well-defined.
So to come along and say “it can’t be done! Meaningless! Undefined!” makes me think that zero is a hidden something after all, a renegade, just like pi, lurking in the middle portal to infinity. Expansively consuming the magic void between a 1 and a -1. It’s up to something, hiding out in the land between One and One’s Mirror (-1).
Difference is a word that you get when you subtract numbers from each other. Are we so different because something has been subtracted from us?
Are negative numbers a way to assign debt to nature where there really is none? Does the concept of a negative balance exist in the beautiful life-world? If integers to the left of zero on the number line are always in debt, does this make then feel negative?
Do early-learned “tricks” in math make it harder to visualize true math as students mature?
How much math goes into the making of paper? How much math goes into determining bias against children with un-mathematical gifts? Is math in our brains when we see the sunrise? What about beautiful words? How many maths? How many moments of beauty?
Where is math in the human mind?
This little ditty was written for three magical, enlivening, frankly beautiful and soulful philosophy classes I was privileged to be a young student in. Every day I absolutely loved coming to these classes, because they were instructed by Professor Bill Graves at City College of San Francisco in the months around the date on which this post is noted as published, the date when I wrote this. I wish I saved all my notes from these classes. I often remember Mr Graves warmly and I wish I could see him and talk with him again. His bright mind, compassionate disposition, elderly life perspective and hilarious life stories spanning many decades, and soulful reverence of the interior life of the human heart all resonated with me, as if he was one of “my kind” of humans. He even had a curious bit of gentlemanly charm, shall I lightheartedly call it, for an old bloke. Maybe that’s how they formed the philosophical men of his generation. He was a dear mentor to me, one of many I have already been blessed to be guided by. Many good hours were spent talking together in his sunny cubicle about the meaning of life and the world, me crawling my amateur way through symbolic logic while he patiently smiled me along; it began my appreciation for mathematics I’d never known in my schooling heretofore. Mr Graves was one of those people you look back on and know they had a special influence on your intellectual and spiritual life. They don’t make real professors like Bill Graves anymore.
–Gentle J. Pine 7.31.2017
The Logician’s Prayer
To whom it may concern
may I not in perturbation burn
may I wisely use my reason
to return to the occasion
concluding in my weary mind
which by logic I am led to:
That first movement at the cosmos’ start
evident among us and in the heart
of all existence;
There undoubtedly exists a Something
even if a little bit;
Therefore, ex nihilo, nihil fit.
image source: Creative Commons CC0