A Lament

A Euclidian proof (image found here)

With much wailing and gnashing of the teeth, I have begun re-learning basic mathematics for the GRE. This is not fun. I've always known my lack of natural abilities when it comes to math, but this experience has been utterly humbling so far.

At SJC I felt very comfortable during our Math and Natural Sciences segment; Euclid was attainable and then beautiful, Lobachevsky was challenging and then mysterious and thought-provoking. But these basic quantitative problems are just mind-numbingly tedious to me.

The worst ones are those awful: "On Monday there are 10 red jellybeans in a jar and 52 green jellybeans; on Tuesday there are 43 red and 40 green. If Jane ate 60% of the red jellybeans on Monday and Tom ate 20% of the total amount of jellybeans on Tuesday, how many jellybeans come in a 10 lb bag?"

(Of course, the above question is an exaggeration, but thats the amount of sense most of them make to me).

So I spend about 30 mins on 2 problems, find myself with a headache, then speed through 14 pages of antonyms and analogies, just for kicks. (Speaking of which, why can I never remember the meaning of abrogate?)

If it weren't for Proust, this would be an insufferable few weeks to get through, but he continues to astound me, expecially in the last 100 pages or so that I've read. There are some truly interesting ideas on the role of the artist, the vocation of art, and the lifelong aesthetic development of an individual. I'm trying to work through what he says, so I can better understand what I think about it, so for now, a beautiful passage from him:

For I should have to execute the successive parts of my work in a succession of different materials; what would be suitable for mornings beside the sea or afternoons in Venice would be quite wrong if I wanted to depict those evenings in Rivebelle when, in the dining-room that opened onto the garden, the heat began to resolve into fragments and sink back into the ground, while a sunset glimmer still illumined the roses on the walls of the restaurant and the last water-colours of the day were still visible in the sky--this would be a new and distinct material, of a transparency and a sonority that were special, compact, cool after warmth, rose-pink.