3/26/2015

Learning a new language, the language of Calculus

Here in Preludium land an experiment is underway.  Blogger me (Mark Harris) is attempting to learn the language of calculus.  I'm very bad at it, just as I am with Spanish, French and Creole. So why in the world try?

Well, three reasons:

(i) as the text "Calculus, from Graphical, Numerical and Symbolic Points of View" (by Ostebee and Zorn) states, "Here is another reason to study calculus" because calculus is among our species' deepest, richest, farthest-reaching, and most beautiful intellectual achievements." It begins to see the abstract mathematical language as a language that tries to make sense of change, variables, in a context where change itself is understood as a function of a world view. And the beauty of it is that if I can grasp even a bit of it, I grasp an idea that permeates my thinking and talking about a whole range of complex ideas.  Well, at least I hope so! deep, rich, far reaching and beautiful... sounds good to me.

(ii) as a bona fide ol' fart, I need to exercise the grey cells with some depth or lose them entirely. This stuff is exercise indeed. The problem is, as an ol fart it is also hard as hell, but there it is. It's supposed to be hard.

(iii) I have a sense that beauty in mathematics is linked to beauty in other realms, and I am in other realms - spiritual life, liturgy, poetry and printmaking, walking with beauty all the time. So the guess is that doing this work, as much as I am able, is another window into the world where the mind and the world are one, because beauty in the last instance is one.

What does this have to do with Anglican futures?  Well who knows. Maybe not much, but I think otherwise. Just as I think making art is a factor (dare I say a function) related to Anglican futures. Not directly of course, but in that round about way that living in community, with all its various spiritual, mental and even mundane ways, is a complex variable system in which beauty often escapes our notice, caught up as we are in the flow, the change, the flux, of things. 


by Mark Harris, woodblock
Being Anglican is a difficult way to be Christian, for the assertion of faithful being is, for us, not a settled thing, but rather made up of constants and variables interlaced and unsettling. Being Anglican means keeping mind and heart and soul in constant relation such that the faith is expressed every day in ways that surprise and renew.



From Rocky Horror Picture Show

More, I am convinced that living biblically (as Stringfellow would say it) is about living in a world of constant engagement with life and language and meaning, such that The Word of God lives creatively in us. There is a strange calculus of engagement with the biblical world that requires grasping the reality of God in words that always fail, in deeds that always fall short, in live that always are too short for wisdom's maturation. Perhaps a bit of training in calculus is a reminder that the grammar of theology is filled with variables within functions that name at least part of the range of our experience of God's presence.
by Mark Harris, etching

And, of course I am stating it badly.

Suffice to say, the experiment may fail completely, for mental agility is sometimes a younger mind. But, maybe Dylan is right, and we can be forever young. I also have a lot of help from a mathematician in the family, Jo Ellen, who is putting up with petite problems (although large to me) along the way.

Meanwhile, Preludium will also be scoping out the vineyards where the grapes of wrath (and otherwise) are found.  Not giving up my night job just yet!




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