Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: fractals

The Secret of the Universe

“I believe that scientific knowledge has fractal properties; that no matter how much we learn, whatever is left, however small it may seem, is just as infinitely complex as the whole was to start with. That, I think, is the secret of the Universe.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

I read that and I paused to take it in, then read it again. I’ve mentioned something similar before, that when we look out into space there seems to be more and more to see. The same happens when we look inside, breaking everything down into smaller and smaller parts.

Years ago, I was organizing weekly group activities for our homeschool group out here in the desert. We had cooking, art, and a book club. I led a drama club that ended in a performance for friends and family. I never thought I’d be using those skills again, but I loved it.

The craziest activity I led was a math group. I wouldn’t call it a class, more like an exploration of math ideas for younger kids. Yes, if you know me, you’re thinking, “Math, Michelle? You? Seriously?” Sounds crazy but it’s true.

I grew up believing I wasn’t much of a math person, but when I first started homeschooling, I heard a representative from RightStart Math speak at a conference and was floored. Hearing her explanation of basic math (seriously), it all suddenly made sense. I wasn’t bad at math. I hadn’t been taught well when I was first exploring and then made to feel like a failure over the years of schooling and gave up.

We used a simplified and voluntary version of their system with our sons. Today, they are both brilliant at math and are both in college as engineering majors. Either the system worked, or they inherited math genes from their dad. I say both.

That’s why I wanted to lead a math exploration group for the local homeschool kids. I wanted to present the fun and exciting aspects of math that are all around us, without getting them bogged down with numbers, formulas, and tests. It was a fun-filled couple of weeks for me!

The first hour I led was on fractals. I searched out examples, went down rabbit holes, followed mysterious trails all week. When it came time for the class, I simply gathered up what I had found and showed it to the kids. We watched a video, read some of a book, and made our own gigantic fractal with paper, pens, and a boat load of creativity.

The lesson was exactly what Asimov described. When we zoom in, we find more and more details. When we zoom out, we see the bigger and bigger picture. How far does it go? Is there an ultimate picture that only some supernatural being outside of our universe can see? That is the secret of the Universe. The science is never settled.

And it’s not simply science, but a metaphysical thing as well. The more we look into ourselves, the more we find. The more we look out, the more connected everything seems to be.

What part is it, that when we break everything down into pieces, is essentially me? And where is the line between us? What makes us different, yet the same?

What do you do?

fractal

Someone asked me what I do last week and I told them, proudly, “I’m a writer.”

“Really? What do you write about?”

“Well…I write a blog…about…stuff. Books and such mostly. Things I think about.”

It sounded so vague. I’ve read loads of articles about blogging and keeping to a topic or theme, but I just have never been able to do it. I write about what comes up in my life, what I’m reading, what I’m seeing, how I feel about things. I try to find the meaning behind what I’m experiencing. Philosophical stuff.

Wait. Is what I write here “philosophy”?

I’ve read a lot of philosophy. Most of it, Socrates and Plato, seem beyond my understanding, but I love it. My son recently took a philosophy class in college and I was thrilled to hear all about it. I didn’t take any classes like that when I was in college. I was too busy in the theater, building and painting sets, being an “artist.”

Then a few days ago, I was reading an article in Philosophy Now about “The Decline and Rebirth of Philosophy.” The article talked about how we’ve separated philosophy out of everything and treated it like a science. It’s just not a science. You can’t talk philosophy all on its own without history, religion, relationships, etc. It how we talk about those things. History without philosophy is just a list of dates. Religion without philosophy is just doctrine. Relationships without philosophy is just social contract.

I found comforting words from the article, like “fancying themselves as experts on subjects on which there can be no expertise.” There are no expert philosophers! How do you like that?

In my opinion, we’re all philosophers to a degree. We all think about the relationships between things. We all try to live by a certain philosophy of love, kindness, selfishness, whatever. Some of us just like to talk about it more.

I googled “simple definition of philosophy” and found this on Wikipedia,

Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.

I’d say that’s exactly what I write about. I see things, I think about them, I connect them to other things. I ask questions. I wonder. Books, social media, family, flowers, non-profits, history, relationships, parenting, homeschooling; my posts tend to be all over the place but they’re not. They all revolve around “Why?” I want to know why we are all going crazy over social media, why we send our kids to schools, why we spend our sexual lives with only one person.

I’m not writing to solve anything. I’m not telling anyone what is right or wrong. I’m only adding to the ongoing discussion. It’s one of the great things about the internet! So many ideas. So many discussions to be had. And all we do is insult people and watch funny cat videos.

Here’s another gem from the article, “philosophical disagreements are by nature unresolvable.” That doesn’t mean there’s no point in discussing it! Philosophy will never be finished. It’s a fractal. The more we talk, the more discover, the more there is to discover. We’re complex beings in more ways than one!

Now I’m not only a “writer” when I tell people what I do, I’m also a “philosopher.” My blog is about my philosophy, my thought process, my life. I want to share those ideas through my writing, not only to see if anyone else thinks the same way, but how they may think differently. Or, on my bad days, if anyone is thinking at all.

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