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.

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.

Some Fragments

Monet - Coquelicots

Walking home on Wednesday night I called New York beautiful for the first time in quite a while. During the day the combination of wind and constant traffic had scattered petals from the cherry trees all across the sidewalks and roads. Each curb had its own pink drift of petals and it felt as though I were walking home through the aftermath of a carnival. The sun was setting across the park and the newly green trees were silhouetted against a delicately orange sky.

On Thursday I found my rhythm with Proust. Turns out, the narrator was also feeling as I had been feeling--disconnected and discontent with his ability to intereact and observe.

He describes this:

"Trees," I thought, "you no longer have anything to say to me. My heart has grown cold and no longer hears you. I am in the midst of nature. Well, it is with indifference, with boredom that my eyes register the line which separates your radiant foreheads from your shadowy trunks. If I ever thought of myself as a poet, I know now that I am not one. Perhaps in the new, the so dessicated part of my life which is about to begin, human beings may yet inspire in me what nature can no longer say. But the years in which I might have been able to sing her praise will never return."


But in a transcendent and mysterious moment, his temporal self is freed and he roams through his memories as a greater being, connecting past with present and similar with different. He describes this as being able to apprehend "a fragment of time in the pure state" Something only an "extra-temporal" being is capable of--the complete and succesful identification of past with present.

...the power to make me rediscover days that were long past, the Time that was Lost.

I have a feeling that process will be the great work of my life.

Some Fragments

Monet - Coquelicots

Walking home on Wednesday night I called New York beautiful for the first time in quite a while. During the day the combination of wind and constant traffic had scattered petals from the cherry trees all across the sidewalks and roads. Each curb had its own pink drift of petals and it felt as though I were walking home through the aftermath of a carnival. The sun was setting across the park and the newly green trees were silhouetted against a delicately orange sky.

On Thursday I found my rhythm with Proust. Turns out, the narrator was also feeling as I had been feeling--disconnected and discontent with his ability to intereact and observe.

He describes this:

"Trees," I thought, "you no longer have anything to say to me. My heart has grown cold and no longer hears you. I am in the midst of nature. Well, it is with indifference, with boredom that my eyes register the line which separates your radiant foreheads from your shadowy trunks. If I ever thought of myself as a poet, I know now that I am not one. Perhaps in the new, the so dessicated part of my life which is about to begin, human beings may yet inspire in me what nature can no longer say. But the years in which I might have been able to sing her praise will never return."


But in a transcendent and mysterious moment, his temporal self is freed and he roams through his memories as a greater being, connecting past with present and similar with different. He describes this as being able to apprehend "a fragment of time in the pure state" Something only an "extra-temporal" being is capable of--the complete and succesful identification of past with present.

...the power to make me rediscover days that were long past, the Time that was Lost.

I have a feeling that process will be the great work of my life.