The Solution to All of Our (Math) Problems

Find the derivative of an elephant flying at a terminal velocity toward the sun revolving at 2,000,000 miles per minute around an axis that tilts at 40 degrees if x=the numeral that is less than a phoenix.

Now, as a prophet of the typewriter, I am not particularly fond of math. In fact, a calculus quiz awaits me tomorrow morning. What I’m going to do is suck it up and try my best. But what I’d like to do, well…

I think I’ve realized the only true way to rid ourselves of this intellectual blight called “math,” that strange other-world language that makes rules for no discernible reasons, on an infinite quest to find elusive variables. We gather together, man and woman, adult and child, and we take with us a math exam. Perhaps a geometry assessment we failed in ninth grade. A quiz on addition we took when we were seven, streaked with evil red marks.

And maybe we can all join hands like we’re part of a sentimental Kumbaya circle, and we can build a huge fire in the center of us and each drop in the horrid math that did us in, whether it be elementary or astr0physical. At some point, we all find ourselves bent over a desk, pencil in hand, problem on the page, frozen. Unable to stroke out even the first step of what promises to be a complex, multi-faceted ordeal. In that moment, we will simultaneously let go of a piece of ourselves in such symbolism that the world will shake off its fetters, the constraints scholars call “math.”

We will rejoice. We will hold parades in the streets as if each one of us has just saved a baby from a terrorist. Each of us is a hero, complacent in striking down evil.

Throughout history, man has shown a capacity to burn what does not please him, whatever he cannot understand or he refuses to understand. Because I understand math and I don’t appreciate it, and if I don’t, then it should all burn, right? Then we can go on celebrating. Or maybe not.

Maybe I just don’t appreciate math because I’m terrible at it. Perhaps there are some lucky, math-minded people who subscribe to its infallible tendencies. That follow its unyielding tenets because routine is just that, a familiar way to live. I understand why someone might love math, though I do not. Of course, math has all the answers. They never change. Every time you do the problem, the answer is invariably the same, and there’s comfort in what is constant, what feels right and solid and always ready to be accessed. In terms of reliability  math far surpasses human behavior or literary meaning.

It’s true: I sometimes get a sneaking suspicion math could be enjoyable given the right mind for solving mysteries. Math is a maze, a problem to work through, a Rubix cube waiting to be made coordinating. I still don’t like it, and if I were to have it my way, I would light the math quizzes on fire. All of them.

But it’s not, and that’s not how life works. People disagree. We are passionate for different things. Some of us love books; some of us love calculators. And no matter what factions we divide ourselves into, we must never strive to burn away what the others take pleasure in.

Therefore, I salute you, math nerds. You have learned to love something repulsive to me, but I shall not judge you for your love. You love what you need to. It’s okay. I may not be attracted to math as you are; I may cringe at the idea of it. But what you do at night at your desk with a calculator, paper, and pencil, well, that’s your business.

Because beyond just numbers, math is something someone, I am sure, loves. And when someone loves something, you try not to burn it.


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