The Mathematics of Life

I’m one of those people who finds math difficult.

In grade school, I would rather add or multiply than subtract or divide. I had trouble understanding how to take away more than you have or divide something that is whole.

That’s still true.

It was difficult to avoid math in college. Strangely, I breezed through statistics. I guess math is easier for me when applied to life.

Once I graduated, I was relieved to find that life primarily focused on addition, like getting married and becoming “a couple,” along with adding a job, a car, a house, and lots of other stuff.

I should have known the math honeymoon wouldn’t last. Later in life I’ve had to re-learn subtraction with the loss of parents and good friends.

Still, I haven’t given up on improving my math skills. The writer, Annie Dillard, provides encouragement, “The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. (whereas) The life of spirit requires less and less….”

That sounds like something worth working on!

Mindfulness is all about subtraction. I get a lot of practice there. I also find subtracting minor irritations caused by slow traffic or long grocery check-out lines a worthwhile challenge. Something tells me I’ll be working on subtraction for the rest of my days.

Let’s move on to multiplication.

I like multiplication, probably because it’s based on addition. Who doesn’t love multiplying savings or investment returns? Multiplication applied to the right areas makes life a whole lot easier and enjoyable.

Division is another matter. I continue to have trouble with division, especially political division among friends! I try to ignore divisiveness, but it’s hard not to get sucked in.

Recently I came across some great practical math guidance in Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book, “How To Fly In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons.”

“Don’t try to make life a mathematical problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal.”

That makes sense. (now we’ve moved on to algebra)

Mystics claim the evolution of consciousness proceeds from I to We To One. Let’s see if we can apply algebra to test that out.

Enlightenment can be represented by the simple equation: I + We = One.

So far, so good!

If “We” is positive (and “We” is always positive), “I” must be negative to solve the equation.

That passes the “sniff” test!

Here’s a recap of what I’ve learned from mathematics so far:

-Ultimately, less is better than more.

-Subtraction is uncomfortable but necessary.

-“I” must be negated to get to “One.”

Maybe that’s all the applied math one needs to know!


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