20 April 2011

Mathematics and Hospitality

So I thought I might talk about those ten reasons to choose a simple lifestyle (see previous post). But I may just do so randomly and without regularity. What is currently more interesting...

I was leaning back in my chair and started thinking about my reading course on mathematical beauty that I took in college. One major philosophical discussion concerns the true origins of mathematics.
Is mathematics invented by humans, or does mathematics pre-exist in nature?
This is not a trivial exercise; I believe that a deep exploration of this question is important, especially for people who work with numbers. What do you think? How might this question apply to your life? (If you need help, replace 'mathematics' with 'logic'. The discussion is analogous. You can answer by leaving a comment - c'mon people!) I'll start by leaving my opinion as a comment.

I did not intend my YAV blog to become a math blog. But this is what I think about. Take a number.

Life goes on in Nairobi. Working at Across is still great; improving the website and other stuff slowly by slowly. Matatus are still frustrating sometimes. I am searching for where to live in Seattle when I move there for school in September. Could do with some more variety and taste in my food, but hey, I'm getting enough to eat. Apparently this weekend is Easter and the YAVs are having dinner at our coordinator's house. Looking forward to that, and playing cards with Ben Snipes and others. Ben and I have agreed to cut our hair this weekend.

I was walking home Monday when a guy pointed toward the national park (there is a national park/zoo in Nairobi). His name is Shadrack. We viewed the buffalo briefly before walking on together. Within 100 meters he had invited me to him home in Kajiado (Kenya) where he would arrange a tour for me. We also discussed weather in the US, how most places there are both hotter and colder than Nairobi which is temperate year round, and how one would probably need two coats living in Greenland. 3 John talks about being welcoming and hospitable. How do we decide when an offer of hospitality is not an invitation to danger, and how do we overcome the fear of offending someone with our openness? I think Shadrack knows the answer. But as an ex-pat in Nairobi I feel vulnerable to others who would take advantage of me, so I had to deflect Shadrack's serious invitation to his home, and I'm sorry about that.

-Contemplative in Kenya


  1. So this is a really tough question to approach...

    Math research is about discovering the hidden properties of systems we have defined using our own definitions. To do math we have to have a system of rules to work with. But would those rules be valid in a universe where we had not explicitly defined them? My answer is yes, and my opinion is that mathematics pre-exists in nature.

  2. I think math existed in nature before we defined it. I see the patterns on a seashell or a butterfly wing and see math.