Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Way of the Force

I'm sneaking out a few minutes to write this.

Mr Leong (our Pure Maths teacher) has given the class a '3-day 2-night holiday package' of Maths work, covering the Polynomials and Sequences & Series chapters. We have the week-long school holidays to complete it.

I told myself yesterday that I would spend the next three or four days working hard on it, for the sake of getting it out of my mind. At present, I have completed the Inequalities handout. I have yet to do the handouts for Series and Partial Fractions, and two Sequences & Series exercises, in addition to a total of 56 revision questions from the two chapters.

It occurred to me a short while ago, that I'm not doing this out of love for the subject; indeed, I see no functional use for all the Maths we've been studying this year, except to fill up time if you've nothing better to do. And the parts I actually like (e.g. the stuff on infinity) are hardly applicable in daily life unless you're into Quantum Physics.

So, it seems quite clear that I'm doing it merely to get it out of the way, like killing a parasite. Reminds me of the time when ticks infested my dog, George. I used to relish picking them out and killing them one by one, whether by squishing their blood-bloated bodies, flattening their heads, or thrusting them into soap solutions.

My desire to finish the Maths work is fuelled by an intense hatred of the subject. Yet I know this is not the Jedi way. But neither can I love the subject.

Mum said it's to stimulate the mind. Yeah, I'm stimulated by photography, poetry, literature, music, art, nature, laughter... In fact, all the mammoth personalities of the past were famous for developing their strengths in favour of their weaknesses; they were wise enough for that. Beethoven never became a rocket scientist, Einstein wasn't a poet laureate, van Gogh did not compose music, Shakespeare did not pursue economics.

I'll never become a mathematician. Descartes famously said, cogito ergo sum, i.e. "I think, therefore I am." I do not believe that. Rather, I am inclined to think that our thoughts don't change what we are; they are a reflection of who we are. I am too random, too much a dreamer, to ever be grounded by the abstractions of the hard sciences. To me, a whale deserves to be enjoyed and celebrated in verse, far more than dissected upon the laboratory table.

Some of you who read this may know Mr Leong. I like him very much, especially all the tangents he frequently embarks on, like throwing Ayah Pin, Approved Permits, the profits of Petronas and the N95 haze mask into his lessons. I guess it says something about the stuff that really matter. When he talks about all those 'unrelated things,' we immediately connect; when he begins to explain the next concept, we are automatically flung into another frequency.

I am not belittling Maths. And I did not drop Physics because I think it's a whole lot of crap. On the contrary, I enjoy Physics so much, that I cannot help talking about it or describing things in its terms. But these are not for me. There are mathematicians and physicists among my friends; it is their lot in life. It is not mine.

So why do I even give a fuck? Why must I slave through this (and please, for crying out loud, DON'T say: "because it builds character") if it is not my destiny? I see no good that can come out of endless sessions of pain, trying to understand something I will never use. Even Jacob didn't work hard for nothing: his prize was Rachel.

Some may point out that I must score in this so that I can pursue medicine. Well, to hell with it then. I'll do something else: I'll study literature, become a teacher. Work in Scripture Union (that is, if SU would ever put up with someone like me). Life is not a bed of roses, granted. But that does not mean we deliberately invite trouble by jumping into a pool of acid.

Maybe I should just switch to the arts stream. At least I may understand those concepts better, even if I cannot remember them all. And at least I may see something actually applicable there, something grounded in reality versus the scientific abstractions that are dealt with within the mind, and the mind alone.

Anyway, I tip my hat to those of you who are still reading. Thanks for listening to these ramblings. I think I'll just do the wisest thing anyone in my position can do: sleep. Maybe a nap will clear my mind a little.

Oh, and just one more thing: I also realise that I need not be in the editorial board. My list of extra-curricular exploits is already rather illustrious, and apparently with the advantage of having served in National Service, I have full points for local university admission. So why do I bother with the board? It is no longer something I need. Yet I do it for the joy of the whole endeavour.

Which is the opposite of Maths, which is something I do because I have to, deprived of all manner of joy. Ironically, nobody remembers the top scorers of the last decade. Yet the names of even the earliest editors are preserved, and the magazines kept intact for posterity. Maybe I'm still in the editorial board because it means something to me. Because I enjoy creating and writing and communicating.

Oh, screw it. When I wake up, I'll still have that pile of maths staring at me. Maybe I'll just burn the whole stack and tell Mr Leong that I misplaced the assignments. Though, he did say yesterday, "Ben, you're always so busy. I hope you can finish the work." Well what does it matter anyway? It's my life, after all.

So much for the way of the Force. So what if I'd rather be Sith?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well now we know that you are a phenomenologist and not a postivist

SimianD said...

Who are you, anonymous?

I was never a positivist. And I never wish to be one. Neither do I appreciate being labelled a phenomenologist.

(Anyway, here's to you, David; yours is probably still the most accurate: "IP". Indeed we are.)

Siedne said...

Ah at least u can strike one thing off the homework list. i'm sooo dead. my week is too packed. and i need help with inequalities, i just don't get them!! *sob*

mich said...

geez u guys are covering the topics fast..can relate to how ur feeling now.. i'm 3+ weeks away from the trials and approx 78+ days from the exams...am i happy?
VERY.at this point, i really don't care how i do!i just want it over and done with.

mich said...

if it's any consolation..the lowerVI is always tougher than upperVI

enilit said...

Can't really identify how it's like, having switched from the Science. But I was very relieved after switching. It was as though I found my footing once again.

I'm not sure about Lower XI being easier than Upper XI. At least it doesn't work that way for the Arts.

But well. *pats*

enilit said...

Yikes, it's "VI", not "XI". Sorry.

silentsoliloquy said...

I know how you feel. Only when I got here did I realise my place is where I can have fun and hopefully sneak out some credit hours while doing it. :P Might be coming back to Malaysia soon for a week or so.. grandfather in bad shape.. as the 1st grandson I have to return. Will go to college late.

silentsoliloquy said...

Oh.. and btw, I think I'm a humanist. Thomas More, you go boy!