Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Math and Chopin

Say it with me, ahhh divina proportione

I am sure I have mentioned before how poor my math skills are. Dirt poor. When confronted with having to do math in my head and answer out loud, my mind closes a door. No matter how furiously I knock seeking the answer, the neurotransmitters hiding behind the door insist loudly there is, "nobody home, go away, don't come back later." It hasn't helped my case that I am surrounded by a family of engineers and math teachers who all just 'get it'. They can visualize the numbers but I can't. Math is a foreign language to me.

There is hope though; if you show me math in a practical sense, I get it. Take the golden ratio or 'divine proportion', which I won't butcher by trying to explain. Aesthetically, it equals all of those perfect swirls in the sunflower up there, pleats in pine cones, crests of waves, even our own human form. According to this wiki article, the ratio is easily recognized in the works of my favorite composer, Chopin. Nocturne No. 2 in E Flat is a good example of the use of proportion, especially the sequence towards the end, which reminds me of watching the koi bubbling from the bridge at Seiwa-en, their scales shimmering beneath the cherry blossoms floating on the surface of the lake. Isn't it odd that even the happiest memories can quietly break your heart?

So, there you go, even when I finally understand a math concept, it still threatens to drive me to tears. I guess this is life's way of reminding me that the mind and the heart have to be in balance, in proportion, for contentment to exist. That is a language I am beginning to understand.

2 comments:

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I'm terrible at math, too, unless I stop thinking about it. I intuit math a lot better than I reason it out.

It's hard to be a knitter and lousy in math. But if you're someone who likes to see the patterns in things more than the numbers ... ahhh.

frances

teabird said...

I'm at work, listening to the Chopin, and so happy to have that link to click -

Did you ever see the movie, "Pi"? It's a cautionary tale of how one can get a little too deep into a mathematical concept. (That's my excuse...)