a short preface: i hate math. math hates me. i took algebra II twice in high school, not because i failed it the first time, but because i refused to take a higher level math afterwards. i can swing simple on-the-fly arithmetic if it involves sports, but that’s usually situational and a sign that i’ve memorized potential outcomes based on now-decades of following scores and statistics.
so i do not write this piece as one unbiased against math. i recognize the need for it and respect it in theory, much like i respect distance running but will never ever try it, but i do not and will not like math.
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i see Beauty most sharply when she dresses in the potential of irrationality. when ‘should’ or ‘should not’ also echoes with a whispered ‘maybe.’
i am a man in love with the story, and i am far less interested in how a cage was constructed and more invested in making sure the door swings widely open.
maybe i would have enjoyed math more if i recognized the skills i (for the most part, didn’t) learned in math classes would be important in my own future. not solving exact problems, mind you, but the ability to see ideas critically from multiple perspectives and then make the ‘right’ decision.
i didn’t (and still don’t) like math because i see it as a definite – 2×2 will always be 4. always.
i find that exhausting and wretchedly boring. i see no comfort in the stability of numbers, i see bars and cement walls lining the road, taking me the only direction they know. i see no whispered ‘maybe.’
all i want is choice. let me choose to be rational, knowing my whispered ‘maybe’ had life until i decided otherwise.
i feel like what . . . we? . . . need is to purposefully teach the potential irationality. embrace and support the presence of ‘maybe’, so students and adults alike will have an opportunity to push their own boundaries and swing the cage door open a little wider.
* * *
i’m smirking at myself – what’s it say that the defense i intend to use for my above argument is based almost strictly within fiction?
* * *
when reading gatsby, i don’t read the novel hoping gatsby straightens up and decides to fly right. i don’t hope he goes back to north dakota. i don’t hope he moves in with his folks and goes back to using his real name.
i want gatsby to swing hard. i want him to chase ‘maybe.’ if jay gatsby approaches me and asks, ‘so, should i throw a medium sized party, or should i light up my mansion with such severity that the moon and stars will shrink away,’ i slap him hard in the face and tell him where he can get spot-lights on the cheap, because i know a guy.
i’m also a sucker for ’24,’ and let’s just be real, here – i’m not watching jack bauer to see him talk a terrorist down and play mediator. when spilling popcorn in my lap, i am not yelling, ‘calm down, jack! be rational, damn you!’
kirk (irrational ‘maybe!’) wins our hearts because he almost always refuses to listen to spock (mr mathemagician over here). if spock were captain of the enterprise, the original star trek lasts half of one season.
and i see this same idea show up in sports parallels.
i boo quietly when lebron lays up the ball with no one in his way. i want a windmill (support green energy!) dunk or nothing at all.
mr. football mcsnooze-fest coaches, go for it on 4th down once in a while, please! don’t play for overtime, play for ‘maybe’! punting on 4th and 1 is choosing a desk job without even glancing out the window and whispering, ‘maybe.’
denver broncos and ny jets management and coaches,
ya know why folks wanted tebow to play? because he’s fun and he’s a huge f***ing ‘maybe’. will he hit his man in stride? maybe. will he plant this throw right between the numbers . . . of the 20 yard line?
and that’s why he was worth watching.
when football’s on, i didn’t turn on a game of chess, i turned on a game built to create controlled chaos. i don’t read books so i can guess the ending half way through or in which a character never has ‘maybe’ in the back of his or her mind. i don’t love batman because he always gets to make an easy choice,
and so often in these situations, the ‘irrational’ – gatsby buying a mansion and throwing party after party until daisy finds him – is . . . the only thing to do.
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ok. lemme take a slow breath and try to clean and finish this up:
basically, whenever someone asks me a question that starts with ‘should’, i almost always answer,
before the question is even fully asked. if the irrational in sports and stories is so often the most rational choice, and if sports and stories are direct reflections of who we are (i believe this as i believe the sun will rise tomorrow) at heart,
then it only makes sense – i’m smirking – it’s only a rational line of thought, to believe that the potential irrationality of ‘maybe’ might be the most rational choice we can make in our own day-to-day lives.
so, that’s why i hate math (that’s where this started? maybe i also hate organization and a streamlined thought process) and why i taught the princess bride, and why i need someone else to help me figure out what it’ll cost to get new carpet in the living room.