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Love and Mathematics

Authored By: 
Charlie Sitler, Math teacher

Ah!  It’s Valentine’s Day, and a young man’s fancy turns to…mathematics?

Not really.  But mathematics, or at least the language of mathematics, can be useful in discussing helpful advice to promote love in your life.  In fact, I encourage you to consider matters of affection stated in terms familiar to any calculus or precalculus student. (And you thought you wouldn’t use calculus in “real life”!)

First, however, I want to discuss an idea attributed to Michelangelo that I have always cherished:

In describing his methods as a sculptor, Michelangelo said his practice was to simply take his block of marble and remove the extraneous material, thus revealing the beautiful work of art that, although initially obscure, was always there. In a similar manner, a true vision of our significant other can be obscured by thoughts and expectations about how he or she should be, or needs to be…especially in our love’s relationship to us.  Not only does such a viewpoint engender resentment when the person inevitably falls short of our wishes, it also, and perhaps more importantly, prevents us from seeing the real beauty that is at the other’s essence.

Even a tiny shift away from our preconceived expectations can be revelatory. Indeed, it is not without immediate positive consequences for the vision we have of ourselves as well.  I believe the better we are able to see the beauty in another, the more we will be able to appreciate a similar beauty in ourselves.

So, dear friends: Let your expectations approach zero, and let your hope approach infinity.

And who knows?  Maybe every day can be Valentine’s Day.

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