‘I would have read Euclid,’ Paul says, ‘when Timothy asked, I should have said yes.’ I had asked Paul for his opinion about math. It is an interesting topic. Not exactly in the act of doing it of course, at least for most people, except me. But in the abstract there is something fun about math. Some call it symmetry, pattern, beauty, etc.
‘Timothy,’ Paul laughs, ‘he came up to me one day, all excited, and shows me this proof about a circle in a a triangle.’ He takes his hands out of his pockets, he places them against the wall. ‘I think it was about a circle in a triangle. It was something like that.’ He tries to remember the drawing.
There is something about math that has intrigued me lately. Have you ever seen a mathematical proof? They are archaic in so many ways. So dry. Plain. But within their tiny conjectures and formulaic logic there is something I wish everyone had an opportunity to experience. It is in the form. The form permits the little breakthroughs of thought. How a slight change of this number from positive to negative, changing the assumption from numbers that count like 1,2,3,… to numbers like 1.111,1.112,1.113,1…, there is earth shattering findings.
Maybe that is an overstatement. Maybe they are just earth-resounding.
‘I would have read Euclid,’ Paul enters, ‘if I had realized the power of technology sooner. Math was our ipad and iphone.’ I watch Paul take a look at my phone,’not an Apple product?’ No, I reply, I can’t afford it.
‘Most people think religion talks past the working professionals, definitely,’ Paul stands back from the wall, ‘I would have emphasized the way says the opposite.’ He places his finger by a dimple in the wall, then traces out a circle with his eyes closed. ‘Life is about work, the novelty of faith in different genres of work.’
‘Our god is a worker, plain and simple.’ I watch Paul now try to draw a straight line. I can’t tell what he is trying to do at this point. ‘I thought that everyone understood that. Peter, James, John, I never got the feeling they felt any differently. That is probably why I never talked about it.’
‘But I did talk about it.’ Paul continued, ‘I only told Timothy to go evangelize. It was clear to me that working professionals displayed the way in their character, their everyday decisions. I assumed they were working very hard.’ I begin to digest Paul’s words. Then I begin to think of what the citizens did under Nero, Caesar, Cicero, etc. How did they work?
‘But this is where I ended,’ Paul says, ‘to work one must communicate. Communicate goals, objectives, it is all about clarity.’ Paul looks at his drawing, or hand shadows, whatever you want to call it. ‘That is why I focused so much of my efforts on rhetoric. To understand the dynamic of pathos and logos, I hoped to pass on that knowledge. They needed to be better understood.’
That is where I began to make the connection. My fascination with mathematical proofs, I began to think lately, was a sort of rhetorical game. The only difference between most arguments and conversations is that the rules are very clearly drawn. And your opponent need not point them out, rather you will just be proven wrong.
‘If I had to do it all over again,’ Paul says, ‘I would have read and talked about Euclid. I would have tried to bridge the technological divide of us Romans to you E-commerce folks. I would have tried to make it more clear how I saw rhetoric in relation to math. How all of this centers around the efficiency of work.’