Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Numbers are the closest thing to God

09:00:00 Posted by Miles Macey , , 4 comments
This week the Tuesday Blog has been written by the wonderful David Riley

Numbers are the closest thing to God since the old chap's sad demise in the nineteenth century. Or so some would say. They claim the little fellows have a whole realm to themselves in which they exist independent of our minds and no matter what we do they will always persist in this other world - and no, I'm not making this up, I had a logic teacher who believed such an idea (that's been hanging around since at least the time of the ancient Greeks.) Numbers are  then perhaps one of the most familiar and at the same time strangest of our everyday companions. In our trying to work out what they get up to when we're not looking they've also managed to drive quite a few people round the bend. This special favour is particularly granted to those who dealt with infinities. Yes, plural. Some infinities are bigger than others. Don't ask.

I like numbers even though I'm useless at trying to do anything special with them. I do recognize their importance to us, perhaps their transcendence and that they have more and more influence in the modern day from explaining how the world works to computers and e-commerce. They've also been highly influential in the lives of some of the people I've studied. For example the early astronomer Johannes Kepler believed his work using mathematics allowed him to "think God's thoughts after him."

Interesting enough but what about maths, numbers and the arts? Well for a long time (yes, at least the Greeks again) people have recognised how close numbers and music are for example. In mathematics there are special symbols; there are in music too. They are even closer than this, of course. The way strings and things vibrate is the key to the way Western music has been interpreted since Pythagoras experimented on jars containing  various amounts of liquid and discovered what we call beautiful sounds had a specific link to the amount of liquid the jars contained. The same went for strings, stop them in certain places and the sound changes.

And as for poetry one of the most important things about it is rhythm, much more so than rhyming. As Neil Astley says, "the essence of all poetry has always been rhythm." Most of Shakespeare is written in blank verse, which does not rhyme - but it does have metre - whether the dee dum X 5 of much of the Bard's to the feel of the ballad's driving force. People may  not know much about the technicalities but they know the flow. What makes a good football chant? It doesn't have to rhyme but it does have rhythm and rhythm is all about numbers with a  smattering of beauty and truth, Much the same as those who've played with numbers, poets are on the edge of a wonderful world that they explore and guide us lesser mortals in an exploration of it and ourselves. Will you see what you can find?


Colin Davies said...

I agree David. Numbers exists in everything.

Nice post.

vicky ellis said...

Rhythm beats rhyme
every time

The metre is where the voice is found. The notes are important too, a particular tone, but the pace guides the whole presentation.

"dee dum X 5" is the metre Shakespeare used for his verse and plays (Riley, D 2013).

Now, where's my diploma? :)

Ashley R Lister said...

A musicality of numbers as a metrical aspect to language? Rhythm is all about numbers with a smattering of beauty and truth? I love these ideas.

Great post,


Nikki Magennis said...

lovely post.