13 June 2007
5 the aftermath
i hate math.
because math has right answers and right answers are so not real life. real life is about gray areas and what ifs and near misses. it's about free will and guesses and rewrites.
i began hating math in the third grade, when multiplication proved to be a skill entirely beyond the reaches of my mental capacities. i finally caught on when the tables were taught to me in songs (no, i will not perform them), but that first introduction left a bitter memory.
however, somehow i always tested well in the stupid subject. probably because the TCAPs used questions like "2+2+2" to determine whether one were capable of taking 8th grade algebra. as a result, i would spend the entire year struggling to keep my grades afloat.
on more than one occasion a teacher took me into the hall and said, oline, you've earned a C, but because you're trying so hard, i'm going to give you a B. just this once though, so try harder. the great lesson i took away from these hallway confabs was that it pays to look like you're trying hard- especially if you don't have a clue.
because i didn't have a clue. because math has right answers and i don't operate in a world of right answers. my brain won't do that. it won't be boxed in. that half has shut down.
as an english major, you can propel through an entire academic career without delivering a single right answer. because right answers are obsolete. they have no value in a literary world. it's the thought-process and the digressions and the ideas that emerge along the road to a maybe kind of sort of plausible answer that you're probably never going to reach. that is what we value. that is why we write.
and yet, i now do math. everyday. that's not to say that i understand it or enjoy it or that it hasn't been a whole hell of a world of mental pain to pry open those dusty corridors of my silly brain. i don't and it has.
but then, each day, as i stick the numbers in and make them come out right, i'm a little more appreciative of the wrong answers, the guesses, the near misses, the what ifs. because sometimes you have to be wandering in a dictatorship to appreciate the beauty and freedom of your own land. you have to stand in the cellar to truly see the meadow. you have to use cliched metaphors to make a deepish point. and other times- other times you just have to shut up and do the damn math.