Despite my arithmetic challenges, I’m a number freak, so today matters for being 12.13.14. Since this numerical sequence won’t happen again for a hundred years, I want to give a shout out for the day. And the big sky that arrived after an evening of rain. The air feels full of the fresh chill of the coming Winter. At least, I think it’s coming. Eventually. Unless we just skip along to Spring.
I love numbers and pie, so this is a good day for me. It all started in my high school sophomore geometry class when the teacher, Mr. K, taught us a proof about irrational numbers. First of all, I liked that a number could be irrational, as though it had a mind of its own and could fly off. . .the number line. . .for illogical reasons.
I could imagine all the neighboring numbers whispering, “Don’t even try to talk sense to Pi right now. She’s being totally irrational.” Of course, it’s a known fact, all irrational numbers are female.
For numbers, though, irrationality means it just goes on and on, like it just can’t ever decide where to sit. So Pi, 3.14 and so on and so on, just wiggles its little number butt endlessly somewhere between 3 and 4. And yet, it is the factor of every circle’s circumference. So for any circle I could draw in the margins of my geometry textbook, Pi was a factor of its girth (2πr).
What does this imply about circles?
For one, they are way more interesting and hard to pin down than squares. There’s a reason people don’t want to be considered squares. So much wasted perimeter for so little enclosed area.
By senior year, I wrote a research paper on the nature of the circle, for Mr. K who was now instructing me in calculus, and so I became a full-fledged nerd. It began with a quote from my dad’s girlfriend at the time: “The circle expresses the all-embracing, all-protecting womb of nature, the Cosmic Egg of Unity.” I also included this sketch I did of a wizard using a magic circle to ward off an evil demon. Despite my having calculated lengths, areas and volumes created by rolling a circle around other circles, spinning circles around a line to form doughnuts and generally tickling circles, Mr. K was disappointed and said my treatise lacked the pizzazz I usually threw into my math homework.
Now I can see it was my old high school boyfriend’s fault. He is responsible for most human failures in the late seventies, but at the time he seemed much more alluring than Pi. Had I not been busy making out, I might have written a better paper. It was a short-lived diversion. Pi is just that fascinating and the boyfriend, well, if he were a number, he’d be an imaginary one. Oh he existed, but I tended to imagine stuff about him (like I was his one and only).
I ended up dumping Mr. Cheater-pants and majoring in math in college, but I think my initial attraction to numbers and circles has less to do with math (or infidelity) and more to do with nature’s womb (so thanks dad’s ex-girlfriend. Sorry my siblings and I thought of you as an evil step-mother, but you really were a terrible cook and, well. . . it has to be said. . . irrational). I often hear there are no straight lines in nature. Not true (think crystals) but curves, circles and waves seem more prolific. And more fun. So today is a good day to celebrate nature’s curves. And to eat pie.
One last thing. Pi is also a transcendental number, along with its Zen friend e. Peace out.