July 11th, 2001

The Tao of integration.

(posted elsewhere in response to an entry by johnmcelroy)

Buddhists say that before you study Zen, the mountains are mountains and the rivers are rivers; while you study Zen, the mountains are no longer mountains and the rivers no longer rivers. When you have grasped Zen, the mountains are again mountains and the rivers again rivers.

Math and Zen aren't the same, but there is a Zen aspect to math that is much different than the acquisition of a new language. A new language is largely a matter of acquiring fluency a word at a time, pausing briefly to arrange the pieces on the shelves of an already-built framework. However, learning math was like climbing to the top of an endless mesa: a plateau, then a satori that rises to another plateau, gaining elevation through a series of small but cumulative epiphanies.

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