Last Thursday, I joined a Maths workshop with Sha Xin Wei at the Topological Media Lab & now everything has changed. I have ostensibly never shown aptitude for mathematics, or any related discipline, including science. But high school’s pedagogical interface seems so antithetical to how students should actually engage with/in work so it’s no surprise?
I was intrigued by mathematics and rigorous scientific inquiry, but I couldn’t find it. I mean, the way science was presented to me was ‘the scientific method’ and Cartesianism and that there is a right and wrong in the world and if you just account for all the variables you can prove your hypotheses. This never made sense to me, and enraged me because I couldn’t believe in such a rigid structure of the world. I couldn’t believe that bodies were just the sum of their parts. There was more happening everywhere and it was not a transcendental Kantian perspective either. But without the language to articulate this n+1, this “more than”, I took to music that I could body slam and mosh to (the abject growing inside me then?), poetry, photography and depression instead. No one I knew like this was into science & math. For many years I was anti-science, anti-everything really – a suitable ethos for switching from English Literature and Cultural Anthropology to Women’s Studies in undergrad. But then I met this beautiful boy & fell in love with him & he studied math at U of Toronto & he excelled in it & science & it gave him the rigor & potential to see the world more openly than me. But I was young & unconvinced that my brain could ever operate like (t)his. Instead we devoured drugs, strange cult films & literature. But there were numbers & letter signifiers between us, many of them – formulas of love.
We were talking recently, and he was ruminating on why he dropped out of maths because he was so good at it & why he’s doing social work, in which the type of intellectual rigor that gets stimulated is so different & operates on such a lack (for him). I am so impressed. That is to say I am impressed with a mathematical mind, and math has significantly impressed itself upon my Being. I know it is just the beginning (of this workshop & of me attempting algebra), but there are already moments of euphoria I have never experienced. It’s not better than, but it’s there & it’s happening. I wonder if I could ever ‘get’ math. I have to figure out how to tame it, how to be inside it, and how to re-articulate it for everything I am becoming.
Soon I will be opened up to differential topology.
Should I be self-conscious at such an immediate excitement?
Shortly after the second workshop on Thursday — sitting on the metro uncertain of reality, flushed red, with a diaphragm of vibrations that emanated from every pore in my body, so intense that a crystal positioned in relation to me would express all of my heat as a rainbow of colors — the image of the container came back with acute precision. At that moment I realized that there’s something beyond the cracks in the container. I knew the cracks were happening, but all I could perceive was darkness, a sort of black negative space*. This started in the summer of 2009 and became a constant part of me in 2010. The feeling of being a container, being in a container and wanting to know there’s something happening with/in the cracks but unable to get there. I wasn’t ready to get there. I still don’t know what, why or how but I can feel cracks, the openings.
The vibrations, they’re everywhere.
* Mitsu wrote this to me last year: What’s outside the container isn’t something which is not-you: it is something which is always already you, in a larger sense, but you didn’t identify it as such before. So the search isn’t for something external (the external/internal, outside/inside dichotomy is itself questionable), but for something which is both and neither, beyond that binary. So you’re right, you do need to go inside yourself first, but if you go far enough inside it is the universe.