Math and I were never friends. Numbers one and nine would tell me lies about the beginning and the end, zero was always scared to be seen and rarely really there, two and eight were always separating, while seven and three held a power I couldn’t see. The pluses and minuses multiplied against square roots became nothing except symbols speaking gibberish inside my head. But, words. They were magic.
At present, numbers have been permeating my thoughts. It’s a side effect. Some weeks ago I informed the accountants at work — the “lot [that] chose mathematics” — that I was going to order files by names and not client numbers.
“No, the number is more accurate. You can’t misspell a number,” one of the number crunchers argued.
Toad’s breath and hogwash. Numbers, of course, can be misspelled even more easily because these assigned numbers are meaningless. They don’t create a sound, they’re nothing but arbitrary orderings — but a name filled with letters makes sense.
Words, to me, are order and chaos. Using words instead, “well, it’s just a different sort of science.” Finding the right combination of letters to make words. The right words to make rhymes or stories. Words that inspire…degrade. Their power lies in the name we give it. Magic is the name of all that we feel. Science is the name of powers we understand.
What’s best of all is I recently watched the Doctor Who that agrees with me. It might be my favorite episode of them all and I don’t even adore Shakespeare. Too many school years of being forced to read his most well-known plays while bemoaning “there must be other authors out there.”
One of my favorite lines — for how it illuminates the viewpoint — is “you might call that magic, I call that a DNA replication module.” Science, from chemistry over to physics and up, up to astronomy, was the one place where the numbers sometimes started to behave. When the numbers were given words — sentences that needed numbers not just words put around numbers — magic started to happen.
Every time I open a book to read about impossible scientific discoveries — discoveries that might have been considered sorcery or chicanery — I still see the magic created by the words.
Baking is the same. It’s not science, but it is. It’s ingredients that when put together in a seemingly infinite combination of perfect quantities create a muffin. It’s flavors that when thought of as tastes know that raspberries alone makes one creation, raspberries topped with cream cheese make another. If you don’t know this to be science, you might call it magic. You might even call a recipe a spell.