New Math

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

I remember this basic rule from high school math class, but I only recently began to understand that its application is limited to two-dimensional problems.

We humans try to apply the rules of Euclid and Pythagoras to our everyday lives, in order to feel like we can control our circumstances.  We draw boxes around the days, lining them up neatly into weeks, months and years.  We allow ourselves to think that we can leave 2011 safely enclosed on the last page of a wall calendar.

But life’s path is not two-dimensional or linear; it cannot be drawn using a ruler to connect two points on a graph. If I can draw a diagonal line through the box that represents December 31st then I do not live inside it.

My life is lived in the open spaces:

In the short, jagged breaths as I sprint to the top of a hill.

In the slow, cleansing breaths as I stretch my calves at the end of a long walk.

My life is lived in constant motion:

In the steady beating of my heart as the earth spins gracefully on its axis.

I sit at my potter’s wheel—my fingers gently squeezing, my arms pulling my hands slowly upward—and I can feel every muscle in my back moving as every inch of my spine is extended.  The flat, round disc grows taller.  The interior walls of the pot are ridged by the nail of the third finger of my left hand.  I remember a moment earlier in the day when I meant to trim it.  But the moment passed.

I watch as my body’s almost imperceptible movement creates circles within a circle.  I breathe slowly, momentarily harnessing the life force of the universe.  My mind wanders in a circuitous path.

Life is not a straight line.  Life is a circle.  And the greatest distance is its circumference.


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