Friday, April 6, 2007

the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics

But in mathematics, work done purely in the pursuit of pushing boundaries turns out to be just the thing needed to help explain the world around us. That mysterious ability of mathematics to provide a means of quantifying and predicting natural phenomena is what physics Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” --Daniel Rockmore

“In a world where time is a quality, events are recorded by the color of the sky. The tone of a boatman’s call on the Aare, the feeling of happiness or fear when a person comes into a room. The birth of a baby, the patent of an invention, the meeting of two people are not fixed points in time, held down by hours and minutes. Instead, events glide through the space of the imagination, materialized by a look, a desire.”
-Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams

Gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. --Albert Einstein

Did she often think of herself in terms of a highly complex mathematical equation? Did she inscribe an arc down Broadway and envision its quadratic expression? There is so much I do not know about her. This is a fundamental problem in narration. She is always half-veiled, and though I feel her desires as strongly as my own, though I sense her deepest yearnings pressing through the fabric of years, I cannot hear her thoughts. I must infer them from her actions. It is far more difficult to say, “She was acutely aware of each moment as tragically perishable,” than “She heard voices from a far-off barge rising over the Hudson” for though I do know for a fact that she did hear the rising and falling of unfamiliar voices over the water, the bitter pang of nostalgia for the fleetingness of something she could not name is my feeling, not hers. Perhaps she celebrated how water had erased distance so that it was as if the voices were right next to her as she sat on a ledge near the Cloisters.

Thus I am left no choice but to mechanize her, leave her inner workings to the mystery as we do any wristwatch. With Sudek it is different. He is vastly more palpable. Window, rain, desolation. Apple blossoms, dust, euphoria. He is watching her as I am watching her, trying to ascertain the exact moment to arrest time. He has had so much practice with patient apprehension. He is not rushed for he knows somehow that she is delivered to him, over and over again, for all time. What is life after all, but the perpetual solving of one equation: the hope of fulfillment of desire with the exquisite unfulfillment of intense longing?