Sunday, January 20, 2013
Reality's Dying All Around Us
“Math is based around an illusion of existence. The numbers we use are nothing more than symbols that we’ve assigned meaning to. The lines that we draw and the structures that we build are nothing more than a series of points…Can anyone tell me the definition of a ‘point?’” Mr. Caudnate addresses his fifth period Calculus class. The nine students—spread-out amongst a square of sixteen chairs—in front of him grow silent. A smirk forms upon his face as he stares at his pensive pupils. “There is no definition,” he states matter-of-factly. “A ‘point’ is a place-holder representing a specific location of space, a location which has no dimensions—depth, width, length. If you zoom in on any point, it will never grow or change, it will simply exist as a virtual place-holder and nothing more.”
“Wouldn’t having no dimensions mean that it doesn’t exist?” asks a boy from the second row. The other teens shift their attention to his accusation. “An object that has no definition in this world must be non-existent, right?” Mr. Caudnate smiles once more.
“Yes, but it is the non-existence that allows it to exist at all. For something to exist, it must also not exist,” the teacher states with ease.
“But how can something that does not exist…exist?” A confused look spreads across the boy’s face, while sighs of annoyance come from the other, bored students. “If I imagine that I have wings coming out of my back—wings that don’t exist—does that mean that they exist?”
“To you, they will.” The boy is stunned. “As I said, we give meaning to that which only exists for our minds. It is because we believe that it exists.” The period bell rings. “Okay, that’s enough for today, I guess. Remember the quiz tomorrow on methods of integration. Have a good day everyone.”
“Finally…” a student grumbles behind the boy.
“I thought he’d go on forever,” whispers another.
As the rest of the class exits into the cluttered hallway, the boy walks up to his teachers, textbooks in hand. “If the meaning we give makes something real,” the boy asks, “how do we know that all of this isn’t just a dream?”
“We don’t.” Mr. Caudnate laughs. “That’s what makes it so fun.”