it isn’t algebra

December 17th, 2012


There are so many questions, and so many possible answers. But then again, it isn’t algebra.

Even if it were algebra, I’m not very good at algebra, so I wouldn’t be able to help you with your algebra. But it isn’t algebra.

For the last three weeks my daughter has been out of school—a temporary homeschooler—while she finishes the run of a theater production. She’s been doing algebra at home, where I can’t help her with the answers. I can only hover and hound her, stressing the importance of keeping up with algebra.

Around fourth grade, math becomes the marker by which our schoolchildren are judged. Fourth grade was when I stopped being able to do the math.

I dropped by the school to deliver some assignments last week, and I walked into the algebra class with a completed chapter test in hand. The test was a big benchmark for me. Perhaps she could get through this month without falling too far behind, is what I’d been telling myself.

I thought the room was empty until I saw the teacher sitting in the corner, his back to me. When he saw me, he said hello, and his voice sounded strained.

Are you okay? I asked.

Can you tell? He asked.

Is something wrong? I asked.

It’s my mother. She’s dying. He paused. Do you have any advice for me?

I listened. I had no answers. It is so hard, but it isn’t algebra.

Even now, I’m breaking down at how much I’ve misunderstood the questions and mistaken the answers.

None of it is algebra.

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  1. I am not a buddhist, but trying to make sense of “what is not algebra” I think I understand that the buddhist way is ‘no attachment’ and there lies the message: We have, in our human state, attached.

    Maybe I am grateful that somethings are not algebra, that I am not expected to solve for “x”, that “x” occasionally remains a mystery.

    Comment by MJ — December 17, 2012 @ 9:31 am

  2. I got two things from this. Don’t confuse what is important with algebra – whatever your own personal stand in is for algebra. I also read this as something I tend to do for hours fruitlessly. I spend hours doing this type of algebra. Trying to take a senseless situation and make it equate somewhat logically with what I know of the universe. Trying to look for that magic piece of info about Friday’s event to solve the mystery of why(x). Fruitlessly trying to apply logic where it doesn’t belong when I could be working on acceptance and presence and healing.

    Comment by Joan — December 17, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

  3. Sometimes we have to make peace with the unacceptable. When we do, it changes. It changes us. It opens our hearts and brings us closer to our soul, our true essence.
    X is everything we choose it to be at any given moment.

    Comment by Simone — December 17, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  4. P.S. I just got it. The unacceptable comes from our ego. That is the part that does not accept and stands in judgement. How incredibly soft is the person who can look at reality and not judge, how open, how vulnerable and strong at the same time (because it will still hurt).
    The lesson I had to meditate on today was: “My holy vision sees all things as pure.” now I get it. Wow.

    Comment by Simone — December 17, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

  5. Your readers are as wise and wonderful as you are. So appreciated your words this morning, Maezen. And then appreciated the thoughtful comments just as much. You ripple outward. You change minds and hearts. Thank you!

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — December 18, 2012 @ 7:37 am

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