Friday, June 24, 2011

Mutually Exclusive

T/F: Math and creativity cannot get along.


Please be false.


I like math.

As in, really like it. So much so that when asked my favorite/best subject, I say math without hesitation. Numbers make sense to me. They're friendly, and reliable.

Simplifying expressions is like honing a sentence to the fewest possible words. Discovering mental math shortcuts is like figuring out the perfect way to phrase a description. A reduced equation is matched in elegance only by a well-crafted line of verse. I'm taking a summer math class (to make up for my evil/slow middle school, but that's another story altogether) and it is fun.

But I also swoon at the sight of full bookshelves, and picking up a pencil to scribble off some madcap idea brings me just as much happiness as picking up a pencil to strike out a variable that appears on both sides of the equal sign. Catch me reading a good enough book and it's like I'm comatose.

Both these make me happy. So why is it so difficult to transition between the two?

I could make some unfounded statement about how math and creativity are controlled by different hemispheres of the brain and neurons are lazy and go on strike like Frenchmen, but I don't want explanations, much less excuses.

It just irritates me that these two things that I enjoy so much cannot get along.

I've been trying to find a way to prove, conclusively, that math and creativity are not incompatible (ew, proofs. Well, if creativity has a black sheep - *cough*randompaintsplatters=/=art*cough* - math must have one too).

They're both about finding the variable -

no. Some things are meant to be left mysterious.

(Well, i am is an imaginary number.)

Two sides must be balanced -

no. Too much balance is boring in creative works. Something needs to be slightly -off- in order to be really interesting.


can you find some philosophical meaning in y = mx + b?

/Now I'm going to try.

There's a beginning, middle, and end -

booo. Middle means showing work.

A challenge -

no. Wait. Yes. Yes! Kinda. Aren't both about working through the process and finding new techniques and such? But what do you get at the end? An answer. A story. A - a something.

Argh. Sorry about this rather rambly post, but this has been bothering me for the past couple of days. Sort of silly, I know, but...aaagh, I can't help it.

To reward whoever had the patience to read through that, have a snippet of something I've been working on:

Several times, he found his way to the ocean. And that’s when he discovered more about himself: that he couldn’t drown, that sharks may look impressive but it’s impossible to befriend something with such an alien mind, and that faced with the looming immenseness of the sea, he was nothing. The unending darkness stretching into infinity always made him feel hollowed-out, as transparent as the tiniest sea jelly, and no more important.

He didn’t know whether he loved the feeling or hated it.


  1. Very interesting. A friend of mine wrote a poem about this sort of thing, too, comparing academics and language to color. It won the best poem award for our magazine. That was a good poem...

    But yeh, it's super-impossible to draw cohesive comparisons between things that require such seemingly-opposite ways of thinking. We need to build some bridges between our left- and rightbrains. Yep.

  2. -nod- Yesindeed. Thanks for bearing with my frustrations.

    Can this poem be found somewhere on the interwebz? It sounds like something I'd be interested in reading.

  3. No, it can't, and I can't publish it without the author's permission. :( Sorry.

  4. It's fine, I understand. :)