Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Numbers and Words

John Forbes Nash, Jr. is a mathematical genius. He dedicated his life to numbers and even though I can’t produce any evidence for it, I’m quite sure that they helped him to fight back the paranoid schizophrenia from which he suffered and that, unlike in the film A Beautiful Mind, he refused to treat with medication. There’s hardly anything more logic and reliable in life than numbers. Mathematicians use them to express and explain the world. The ‘Nash Equilibrium’ is nothing but the expert try to put a certain aspect of the world into numbers… and to understand how things work. 

Words are different from numbers. They always imply some uncertainty because their meaning uses to vary according to interpretation, but essentially they serve the same purpose as numbers. They help us to understand what is going on and to communicate it to others. The advantage of words is that they aren’t limited to reality. Numbers can only represent what really is even if we haven’t been aware of it yet. Words, on the other hand, can also depict lots of alternatives: worlds of the present or the future that could or could not be, worlds of the past that could or could not have been. 

The flexibility of words is what attracts writers like me. They allow us to create something completely new that doesn’t follow established rules, maybe not even the laws of nature. Authors of fantasy and science fiction novels revel in the infinite possibilities of imagination. My stories are invented, too, but my approach is more realistic despite all. There is no witchcraft in my stories. No fabulous creatures, no exotic worlds. Human nature gives me enough room to experiment with characters and moods, to explore behaviour and emotions. Numbers are of little importance in this universe. 

Words are my key to understanding the world and the people surrounding me. With every story that I put to paper I learn more about the great mysteries of life and social intercourse, about society and its intricate mechanisms that so often astonish, disturb or confuse me. Like a mathematician I’m searching for hidden connections and patterns, but I can only express them in words that add up to complex stories. However, numbers anchor me in reality just like they brought back to reality John Forbes Nash, Jr. They give my world a definite and unchangeable frame. 

We need both – numbers as well as words. We need both – mathematicians as well as writers.

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