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WHY MATH IS IMPORTANT

The new school year has either begun or is about to begin. I remember how excited I would be getting paper, pencils, a dictionary, and crayons. I was not so excited, however, getting calculators, compasses, and rulers for the dreaded math classes, because I refused to enjoy math.

Why?  Well, first I’m a girl and girls aren’t supposed to be good at math.  Although I usually made an A in math because, well, why would you not want an A? I simply saw no value purpose for math.  Sure, basic arithmetic is fine for balancing check books, figuring out percentages of 20% off of those shoes I’ve been lusting after, and perhaps the 10% tithe that the pastor occasionally reminded us about, never specifying if it was pre or post-tax dollars. I realize that math is one of the oldest academic fields, but I just don’t see why there has to be so many other kinds, such as:
algebra
geometry
trigonometry
calculus
linear algebra
combinatorics
differential equations
real analysis
complex analysis
abstract algebra (includes group theory, ring theory, field theory, and module theory)
topology
number theory
logic
probability
statistics
game theory
functional analysis
algebraic geometry
differential geometry
dynamical systems (includes “chaos theory”)
numerical analysis
set theory
category theory
model theory

See my point?

Until today when I attended Ms. Billie’s Watercolor Demonstration Class. This is what I learned:

My mentors Nelle and Lehehia are on the left - they actually think I can paint!  Ms. Billie is on the right.  Stay tuned for my progressive musings as I take her course over he next few weeks!
My mentors Nelle and Leheia are on the left – they actually think I can paint! Ms. Billie is on the right. Stay tuned for my progressive musings as I take her course over he next few weeks!

1. Good paintings begin with a good value plan. Your painting begins by first recognizing shades of black and white in order that those shades may become shades of rich, soft colors that envelop you in the warmth of peace.
2. Have a focal point and paint everything toward that. Everything painted around that focal point is there for the purpose of illuminating the artist message.
3. There are no rules, therefore go ahead and paint outside the lines – in fact you are encouraged to do so. This form of self-discovery allows the freedom to create art without restriction.
4. Always go to the edge of the canvas with lots and lots and lots of color. This seems scary, but by going to the edge comes the realization that we don’t have to jump or fall. We learn that beauty can be brought back from that edge.
5. Allow the paint color to run. Just like life meanders seemingly without purpose, the varying hues and shapes make it a life worth the living.
6. Don’t copy another’s paintings. True artists pull out their own creativity, creating their own joy.
7. Keep your sketch pad accessible at all times and don’t be afraid to use it. While stopping to smell the roses, it is important to memorialize the hues, shapes and flaws of the rose.
8. Take time to step back and look at the focal point using the value plan. Assessing our path along the way serves as a gentle reminder of a purposeful life.
9. Never ever construct without a value plan….of faith, of hope, or of love – all given so generously by God and should be generously received by us.
10. Perspective in watercolor art is a mathematical principle (geometry) and is learned from a square block.

After all, as Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Aha! Math is an art and that is why math is important.

Life is for Learning

Just when I think I’m too old to learn new things, I learn I’m wrong.

This week, finally reaching that momentous event that sometimes occurs in life, I had cataract surgery. The world had been a dim, sometimes scary, place to be. My surgery was quick and painless, with little recovery time. Imagine my delight when I discovered a bright, fresh, and more colorful world!

I vaguely remembered that beauty, or the anticipation of all the unexpected wonders yet-to-be. Without realizing it, life grew a bit dimmer, along with my eyesight.  I didn’t take the time to appreciate the nuances of life. I was no longer delighted by the various shades of green in the tree line. I couldn’t remember when I stopped seeing, or appreciating, the life I had been given.

Pastor Mic once told me that God could have given us a world of black and white. We wouldn’t have known any other view, so why did He? “God didn’t need to give us color,” Pastor Mic said. “He did because He wanted us to find joy in the world which He had given us.”

A forty-five minute surgery changed my way of seeing. Learning changed my way of being. The way of being is all about living life; and isn’t life all about learning to live it?

In the past few years I learned that my career had a shelf life, and when I reached it, I retired and learned to live life in reverse. Not a “do-over”, I liked my life, but rather to do those things I always intended to “get around to”.

I’m learning to paint. Nelle, one of my dearest friends, will turn ninety in a few days. I had gone to Picasso’s Corner to paint, considering it a lark since I had never painted. Ever. They guarantee that you will walk out with a completed painting within 2-3 hours.

My first painting
My first painting

Nelle, whose paintings take my breath away, took one look at my painting and invited me to the painting sessions she attends each Tuesday morning. Being so busy with doing laundry, cleaning out the junk drawers and other such stimulating activities, I declined. Needless to say, Nelle has learned to get done what needs to be done in the most effective way over her first ninety years. Each Tuesday morning, precisely at 10:00 a.m. I’m standing on my driveway, waiting for her to pick me up for our painting sessions.

I’m also learning to write with clearer eyes.  My friend Liz coaches me to be better.  She introduced me to Julia Cameron, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg and other authors who inspire me to write what I am meant to write.

As I sit at my battered old desk, piled high with papers, notebooks, reference books, fiction novels, pencils, – just the way I like it, the mess fades as I get lost in the words as they flow through my fingers to the computer screen.

I imagine. I type. I print. I get my pencil and edit. I don’t see the pictures I lovingly covered my office walls with. The colorful one from The Georgia Artist Series, the pen and ink of the Georgia state capitol and a caricature of me, both drawn by my good friend, Huey Theus, who died this year.

I don’t see the picture taken with Governor Zell Miller as he signed a bill into law that I had worked hard to get passed. I don’t see the diplomas of my BS or my MS degrees. I don’t see the bookcase with the publications containing my published works.

But, I do see the small window to the left of my computer screen. It is always open so that I can see the hanging basket,the red geraniums flowing over the sides. The Japanese maple tree, its fragile green leaves tinged red where the sun kisses it ever so gently, stands next to the soothing fountain, listening to its bubbling secrets.

I lose myself even from these things. But the one thing I always see are the two hummingbirds as they come each day to visit. They are so beautiful, their dark green bodies floating in their gentle activity, never stopping while getting nourishment and rewarding me with their whispers, reminding me to be still for that moment.

When they buzz away, my eyes are drawn to the scroll work of the metal cross that hangs by the window, just right of where the birds greet me with their gentle, relentless lesson.

I go still. I smile and say with great joy, “Thank you God for the learning.”

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”
Proverbs 1:5 ESV

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