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Whispering Sweet Math

Are you hearing what you are listening to?

A person can know another’s mind by listening to the voice.  This is because the physical aspect reveals the spiritual aspect. –  Nichiren Daishonin 1264


I was working the other day in what was supposed to be the quiet zone of the library. It was quiet. It was the still quiet that is butchered by the dragging of a metal chair across the floor. The chairs looked like they were made of wood, but the sound they made against the floor tiles when someone needed to scooch in or schooch out from a desk was an outrageous searing sound, sky tearing abruptly apart by beak and claw of fighting eagle. The chairs. Mostly there was silence and I could think clearly and write quickly. Nice. In the zone. Thought to fingertip to keyboard on to screen fluid like duck striking pond to eat a fish – a oneness, undisturbed success. And then the old white man and the young black man entered.


They had to have searched for this place, not so easy to find, or they knew of it from sometime before. Maybe they found this spot and used it the last time they got together. They sat and scooched, as was necessary, and then they spoke to one another in hushed tones. I was close enough to hear every hushed word and the sounds that they made were rhythmic, measured dance steps. I speak now, went the old white man. Then I speak, went the young black man. Lead and follow. Demonstration. Response. Teacher and student. He spoke. Then he spoke. And the language they shared was limited. The language was composed of numbers and connectors and results. States of being. Affirmations. Numbers in agreement. Everything was “is”. This is and that is and this is again and over and over is, is, is. A math language, processing, all positive, all is, not was, or used to be, or trying to be, or sort of, or kind of, or was before, or will be next. All was is and I was soothed in all the present affirmativeness of mathematical exactness and rightness and lock clicking surety of is-ness. Eight and five is thirteen. X is nine. Five and nine is fourteen. Eight and three is eleven. I heard the old man whisper a long, multi-syllable, giant number. I heard the young man utter a mathematical phrase. They were dancing. Him then him. One step then another. Lead then follow. They were learning together. They were sharing information and progress was being made. Download old man. Upload young man. Transference. Transmission. Translation. Transcendence.

Then suddenly they were satisfied. The older man said he was off to Houston for the wedding of a niece. The young man said he supposedly had relatives somewhere in Texas. A Texas that was somewhere, who knows where, in the world. The old man spoke of Houston Texas as if he was speaking about the middle dresser drawer he keeps his socks in. The young man spoke of Texas with the letters tumbling out to make the sounds as if reaching the air for the first time. Uncomfortable conversation closing out the tutorial. A destination on one hand, a suspicion on the other.

The old man was shrinking toward his bones. His red plaid flannel button-down shirt collar was swallowing his pebbled neck skin that fought to support his nearly bald pigment-speckled head. The young man worked the straps of a full backpack, pulling it up from the desk and onto his back, but not bothering to pull up his blue jeans that hung low exposing a pair of bright red cotton undies. They came together with me in the quiet zone. Nearly whispering they huddled to share a cubicle big enough for one. They were intimate in their exchange of mathematics; this exquisite lesson in algebraic equations. They were adding fractions and acknowledging answers to questions posed by combining numbers in sequence. I was comforted in the language of math and the maleness of their beings and the humanity of their relationship. A lullaby I wish I had recorded. This is. This is. I am. You are. Right now and forever. It works. Correct. Correct. Correct. Lock. Commit.

Just Get It Done Now!


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This entry was posted on June 10, 2014 by in Sound and tagged , , , , , , .


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