Euler's identity

Have you a mathematical bent? Or do you panic when you see numbers, equations and infinite series? Can you be trained to love mathematics, ponder deeply about the set of all real numbers and the different sizes of infinity? Sadly I fall in between mathematical stools. I can go so far and then it overwhelms me. 

This is a great sadness for me. I can, I think, rapidly grasp extremely complex ideas. I can dig down and unearth shortcomings and pitfalls in proposals. I can also see the big picture and think along parallel lines - which converge at infinity. Can that be proved or is that an axiom?

I am lost when it comes to n vector spaces and Hamiltonian tensors. And I so want to understand. I so want to enter that magical world of mathematics. I go so far and then a thick mist descends the text becomes unintelligible and I limp away distraught. 

Yet this should not be a surprise to me. At school I was pretty poor in Pure and Applied Mathematics gaining just pass grades. At university I had terrible trouble understanding number theory and couldn't program our massive IBM running on Fortran IV to solve a simple quadratic equation. My best maths score was the result of learning a whole year's notes off by heart.

When I left university I applied to be a programmer - failed the aptitude test. I then joined the actuarial department of an insurance company. I lasted less than a year at that and never completed any of the professional qualification courses. The lesson is clear mathematics, the manipulation of numbers is not one of my core skills.

It's the same with philosophy. I'd love to understand it! I get hugely enthusiastic about a philosopher or school and spend a fortune on books which remain unread. Literature, the same. I'd plough through all of Thomas Mann, Herman Hess, Andre Aide, Camus, Sartre, Joyce and Herbert Read. Do you see the connection here? All these novels were in Penguin and they had arresting covers. My exploration of early 20th Century European Literature was via book covers.

I am a dilettante and not even a good one. I'm make a butterfly seem positively sloth like. The modern age suits me down to the ground. Everything is presented in bite size chunks. You're even told at the beginning of an article how many minutes it'll eat into your busy on line schedule. Other dense, serious pieces will warn you "This will take quite a while to read and digest". 

My saving grace in terms of concentration and focus is writing. Then when  the mist descends, I struggle hard to push through. I love getting lost in the process of generating an idea and mechanically imprinting it, now electronically, onto paper. I write poems. Starting with a blank sheet, and a tiny germ of an idea I watch it expand, form, take shape and then exist separate from me.

Come to think of it, isn't that a bit like mathematics.


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