Thursday, February 11, 2010

It All Fits

I’ve been revisiting a high school passion, Fibonacci numbers. “Huh?”

OK here’s an explanation from Wikipedia, “In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers are the numbers in the following sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144...By definition, the first two Fibonacci numbers are 0 and 1, and each remaining number is the sum of the previous two”. Fibonacci numbers show up in the proportions of a snail shell spiral and the curved patterns in a sunflower head’s seeds even though they were invented by man. “Strange”, you say. Bear with me a bit. Thinking about these numbers lead to some mental wanderings. Sort of brain ping pong. Keep your eye on the bouncing ball.

There is an exquisite order in the universe. We know it exists intuitively. It’s here before we arrive. We seek to make sense of the world from our earliest interactions, to understand patterns and categories because we know they’re already in place. To decipher language, interpret facial expressions, decide whether we prefer strained peas to mashed banana, we develop filing systems for the bits and pieces. Even language reflects our heart of hearts knowledge of pre-existing order. We say “circulatory system”, “logic”, “cause and effect”, “singing off-key”, “proportion”, “laws of nature”.

The double helix is both beautiful and simple. Envision the cell division dance enabling reproduction. Amazing. Chromosomes. Microscopic codes, blueprints for life. Why someone has one blue eye and one brown. Why your kid gestures like your dad. Why identical twins look alike. Why some tomatoes are nematode resistant. Or certain flowers come in certain colors.

And yet for all our gathering and filing we can’t get to the One Thing Holding It All Together. It is outside our experience and capacity. Too big and way before our time. So we go into default mode. If I can’t see, hear, taste, touch, or smell it, it doesn’t exist. Very unsatisfying. It’s the little kid playing peek a boo, “I can’t see you”, when he knows you’re there.

Then we ask, where does creativity come from? Or love? Or hope? “From within ourselves”, we answer. That’s quite a stretch. Sort of like the geocentric theory of the solar system. You have to explain away a lot of irregular orbits. Unless of course planets revolve around the Sun. Then it all makes sense.

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