When Art & Math Unite

colored fractal

In 2015 through my online college, I took a required general education math course on math concepts for which I chose thinking I could maybe get through that seeing how horribly I did in math in my high school years.  That most math above the basics was something to avoid and something appearing too foreign like a lost prehistoric language with strange and cryptic symbols.

Ahem…All you math geniuses out there, please humor me and follow me through this post.

How naive I was to think math concepts would be easier.  So many of these concepts I’d never heard of before, but by week two, I was to choose one for my final 10-page paper on this concept.

This discovery caused me great anxiety, and I wrung my hands and shed tears of fear and panic allowing these scary unfamiliar math theories and formulas to balloon up to a major overwhelming hurdle over which I didn’t believe I could jump.

I beseeched my advisor that perhaps it had been a mistake to take this class, and really, I needed to go back to square one and take a basic algebra class first before my brain could wrap itself around any of these heady applications.

But alas, I’d missed the window to withdrawal from the course and with a gulp and shaky body, I braced myself for the onslaught of cryptic, confusing, symbolic hell.

By week two, I was introduced to the Fibonacci sequence, and immediately, my mind was blown.  The same numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …) found on pinecones were found on other objects in nature, such as flower petals and the nautilus. Yes, I’m sure you all already knew this, but for me, this was all new and fascinating!

Cool video by Khan Academy on the Fibonacci Sequence:

(credit to Khan Academy)

There was a dark, cobwebbed, spongy crevice in my brain that opened up like the detachable hood off of a convertible, and God’s universe glistened bright and infinitely vast before me.  The mathematical number sequence and how it joined with nature screamed the hands of God, for nothing perfect in this world can be accidental or just be.  Something perfect has to be created by Someone Perfect–God.

Suddenly, math had taken on a totally different view for me, and I liked it.

Reading over and looking up the meaning of the list of math concepts in which we students were to choose from, I finally chose the knot theory because it sounded less scary and perhaps even something my simple, elementary math brain could comprehend.

So, for the next few weeks, in between weekly assignments, I read the history of knot theory, its formulas, how it’s used in life, and watched videos of professors teaching the knot theory by scribbling many different knots on the chalk board and explaining the negative and positive integers used in them.  Frankly, I enjoyed watching those lectures!

While researching how the knot theory is used in life, such as in our DNA and mountain climbing, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in art, and not just any art, art by sculptor, John Robinson.

immortality sculpture

The first one shown above titled Immortality, sculpted in 1982, resembles a trefoil knot.  The meaning behind this great work of art is profound and beautiful.  He created this trefoil to represent the three generations of his family, he being the oldest of the three.  It shows the continuous movement and connection through time, becoming infinite.  Robinson said, “I believe that Immortality is made up of one’s memories of the past, as well as those one leaves behind.  I see this Symbolic Sculpture not only as a continuous journey, but also the scroll of which all life’s experiences (DNA) is recorded.”

rhythm of life pic

In the second picture, his sculpture, Rhythm of Life,  was also done in 1982. When creating this piece, he had wrapped a ribbon around an inner tire tube.  The last wrap was the fourth time around, and it returned to its original starting point.  Ronnie Brown, an English mathematician, had explained that this happens in Torus knots in math.  Robinson said, “I created the sculpture about the time that the miracle of DNA had just been discovered, and for me, this delightful flowing ribbon summed up the continuity of Genes.  I found I could balance the 18-inch maquette on a single point.”

Through this math course that was called The Heart of Math, I truly learned there was a lot of heart to it, and a lot of soul and beauty.  It may have taken decades for me to have found an appreciation for math via this class, but I’m just grateful I did discover it.

 

Works Cited
Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  (n.d.).  Rhythm of Life.  Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  Retrieved from
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/jr/rhythm_of_life.php

 

Humanity’s Power

Success

How much power do humans have in this world? Well, it depends on your beliefs and worldview. This is my attempt at sharing my musings on this subject.

From what I’ve observed, here are two beliefs from opposite sides of the spectrum.

Group One: People have the power to change the world through fighting for social justice, cleaning up the environment, and can achieve anything by believing in themselves. It’s through this concerted effort to transform the world into a nonviolent, loving place to live that they believe can truly happen on earth. They don’t need a higher being/God to do this. They just have to desire it and take action to achieve it.

Group Two: No one has any power of his/her own. They go through life relying on God to design their lives, and as long as they follow God’s designs for them, their lives will be good and spared hardships.

Neither of these takes into account natural disasters, wars, sickness, famine, etc. You know the litany of problems people face on this earth. If I add this issue and question the two groups, here’s how they might see this:

Group One: Just about everything can be fixed if humans will just do the right thing mentioned earlier. The natural disasters can be lessened if we took care of our environment and quit using toxic chemicals, relied on clean energy, etc. Wars and famine and sickness would stop because people would unite for the common welfare of all. If enough people do this, we can finally live in peace and love.

Group Two: Things happen for a reason, and that reason is God’s punishing those people who sin and will feel the wrath of God in the destructive winds of the tornado or in the drowning waters of a powerful tsunami. God’s Hand is in all of these actions to make us repent. BUT . . . natural disasters can also just be earth doing its thing, too, because there’s no such thing as climate change.

tidal wave tsunami

Let’s factor in the whole subject of suffering and dying in whatever capacity. Group One would probably see these as cruel, senseless events caused by lack of education, equality, love, and action on our part to stop them from happening.  But sometimes, they have no real answers because death is a part of life. Group Two might respond that it was those people’s time to leave this world. If they’re asked, “What about victims of a massacre or individual murder?” Generally, they don’t have an answer, and for the most part, they’ll be honest and say they don’t.

Then there are the people who fall in the middle who believe disasters and suffering are sometimes of God and other times just nature doing its thing, like the earth’s natural cooling and warming.

earth

Do people have much power to do anything about these catastrophes in the world? I believe there is nature doing its thing and us doing ours and sometimes they are intertwined.

It all starts and stems from where life began—in the Garden when Adam and Eve were created, whether a representation of humanity, or truly a male named Adam and a female named Eve. God gave us free will. It is a loving and crucial gift for us that gives us the ability to reason and make decisions on everything in our lives, including whether to love or reject God. It is my understanding and belief this was the main purpose God gave us free will—for us to freely choose to love Him or not.

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit represents Love, Peace, and Relationship. God wants a relationship with us. We are not robots or marionettes to which He pulls strings or programs us to act or do something every moment of our lives. No, we have the freedom to choose just about everything in our lives except choosing to not die. We all will. We have to go through this because of the consequences of sin and death that entered the world that is known as the Fall.

adam & eve expulsion from eden

I believe whatever a person does, good or bad (in the sense we humans understand good and bad), it affects all the world and universe. I liken it to the example used in the chaos theory of the butterfly that flaps its wings, and that act of flapping its wings reverberates and echoes through the cosmos, affecting all things in it. Therefore, when a person does something bad, such as kill someone, this is felt throughout the universe.

There is no utopia on earth because earth isn’t God’s Kingdom, as Christians and most non-Christians know. Adam and Eve fell into the temptation of wanting to be just like God, and through pride (arrogance) and disobedience, that caused everything to change for humanity and all of God’s creation.  Making a decision seems to have a lot of power to change the world, doesn’t it?

When humanity sinned, it took the creatures and plants and all down with it to earth, separating all from God’s closeness and grace. This separation was reconciled through Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Getting back to the issues of suffering, wars, and killings. It is my belief that this all springs from two things:

  • Free Will
  • The Fall

Therefore, killings/murders, wars, and whatever things happen in our daily lives are a result of the choices we make good or bad, through God’s gift of free will. We choose to steal that coat at the department store, shoot and kill people, eat more than our stomach  can hold (gluttony), be mean to the person ahead of us in line at the supermarket, etc.  We choose to start wars because of our greed and desire for power over others, anger, etc.

Having said all of that, this does not include people suffering from mental illness because the chemical balance is off in their brains, and unless they’re being treated effectively by psychiatric medications, their brains aren’t functioning correctly.

pink sunset one person free will

God cannot impede on our free will. Father Tom Hopko used to say this in many of his podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio, for which I’ve listened to several.

Then there are the dilemmas of natural disasters, sickness, and famine. Two reasons:

  1. All of humanity is spiritually ill in need of healing, which for me, is found through Jesus Christ, so that we can be made whole and healthy again as we first were made to be.
  2.  We live in a broken, fallen world.

Remember the butterfly example from the chaos theory? Think of that butterfly as a person, and that person does something that separates him/her from God–misses the mark, sins–that sin reverberates through the cosmos because humanity is the conduit between the material and spiritual worlds.   Likewise, if the person does something holy/good, such as loving his/her enemy, or giving food to a starving person, this, too, spreads throughout the universe.

stardust blue

So, if you look at the world from this perspective, you can see through free will, humans do have a great deal of power, and what we are able to do in this fallen world is a result of what we choose to do daily that sends the waves of holiness or sinfulness throughout all existence in the cosmos.

 

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