Idiots, Hamlet, Calculus, and a Guillotine

Life, I have found, makes more sense with a pen in my hand. Words, not so much the infinite gestures, expressions, and human niceties, I understand. I am the idiot savant of a less poetic age, a philosopher barbarian writing words as if in code, trying to make sense of a senseless society who long ago gave up the ghost of reality.

Stories, they make sense to me. In fact, I’ve devoted much of the past week to reworking, rewriting, revising one such story—the novel I wrote. Maybe in the vain hope that when all is finished, you will like it. You will hold the pages to the sky and say, “My, this beauty overwhelms.”

Until then, I’ll keep getting pelted with the slings and arrows of life, as Hamlet would say—more of less, calculus. Ah, math, you tricky slave to logic and consistency. Just being in the presence of numbers, equations, those foreign mysteries—I feel as fresh as a smoker’s lung.

Tuesday, we received back our exams. I passed, and the fear is over, but before an exam, a fear creeps up. On the cusp of that exam, I felt as if I faced a tragic, untimely death. What will happen? I had to begin, put the pencil to paper. Though I felt as if my very act of taking this exam would kill me. A shotgun poised at my chest.

While words—even German—have a beauty that enlighten and inspire, math has become a high level foreign language class in which I don’t belong, having missed out on the essential vocabulary. This is not merely due to the fact my instructor is Russian, botching every other word with wonky vowels. Instead, math itself has transformed from something simple and concrete into the intense codification of some alien race.

More or less, I would rather play Peek-a-boo with a guillotine than take a math exam ever again. But the weekend begins tomorrow, and I can return to words and only words, quite a solace they be.


One thought on “Idiots, Hamlet, Calculus, and a Guillotine

  1. Hi Derek!

    Thank you for mentioning german as a beautiful language. I do what I can to learn english, because for me it is such a powerful language, able to explain or describe every circumstance quick and easy! And on the other hand I love german because it can be so colourful, gentle and subtle. Due to the fact that those are the only both languages I knew, my comparisons limp on both legs.
    Math to me is very special. I would like to witness that logic is only for stupids! They all count 1 and 1 together and chop down the rain forrest, kill the whales, smacking each other in the face, hire and fire, that all because they once learned how to calculate it’s risks! But they – maybe I am wrong – never found out what 1 + 1 really equals. They never found out about the proper result. That there must be more than just 2! Or no 2, when it is better to have 3 instead. Or nothing – why not! Mustn’t be bad.
    In the good belief that they will pass this exam, when looking good in life, by cheating and lying, they cling to their calculations helping them not to understand that they make all worse. So, if it occurs to you that math has something very terrible dwelling in it’s soul – you are right!

    I Hope that this was not to hard to read. Be merciful!

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