I’m a mathematician who enjoys writing, but I rarely combine the two outside of the workplace.

I’m a mathematician who enjoys writing, but I rarely combine the two outside of the workplace.  Some folks want to talk about work at breakfast, lunch, dinner and on the weekend.  I do not.  The separation is necessary for me to remain functional in both places (at work and away from work).

However, sometimes I will bring math into my thought process for fun and entertainment.

Have you ever heard of a book being written on a subject that no one can really agree on a definition?  In mathematics, “chaos” is not chaos as you often think of it.  As a matter of fact, in mathematics it is easier to define something being chaotic than to define chaos itself.

To put it simply (which you can’t really do), with chaos, we can get random results from things that seem very straightforward which are very sensitive to where they “start.”  Again, do not write me telling me my definition is wrong; you define it as simple or as difficult as you wish.

From my view on chaos we will jump to the present state of things, or the present place we think we are.  This place is different for everyone, but similar in some ways.  Folks are worried about what others can see or find out about them – the type of things that are private or that they want to be private.

Honestly, I understand that.  If you check my closet, things will fall out on you.  Things other than skeletons and probably a lot of things will fall directly on your head.  It happens to me all the time (with my own closet).

Have you ever heard the Jeannie C. Riley song, “Harper Valley PTA?”  It was written by Tom T. Hall who is one of the best country music “storytellers” ever to put his thoughts on paper.  The song was released in 1968 and soared to number one on both the Billboard Pop and Country charts.

In this time of what seems to be mathematical chaos and trying to figure out how all this started about people wanting to know what others are doing, saying and where they are going, I say use the “Harper Valley Defense.”

In the song, Jeannie C. Riley plays the part of “Mrs. Johnson’s daughter” who brings home a letter from the Harper Valley PTA noting that Mrs. Johnson is unfit to be a mother.  The PTA was particularly concerned with Mrs. Johnson’s preference for miniskirts, running around with men, etc.

I will stop here to note that if anyone is putting children in danger, I will be the first to come to the aid of the child.

Back to the miniskirts…

What happened next in the song was really “chaos.”  Mrs. Johnson marched into the Harper Valley PTA meeting and started pointing fingers and naming names.  Oh goodness gracious did she ever start naming names.  The bottom line was what she was doing was not as bad as what some of the esteemed members of the Harper Valley PTA were doing on a much larger scale.

As the song notes, “The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA.” 

So there are at least a couple of lessons here.  From the standpoint of mathematical chaos, the starting point was the Harper Valley PTA putting Mrs. Johnson under the magnifying glass and getting results that weren’t so straightforward.  They opened up a Mason jar of something they weren’t prepared to drink.

Another lesson was having the ability and taking the time to be prepared.  Mrs. Johnson may have seemed to be “running around and going wild.”  However, in the process, she saw a lot of other people and things going on that she was willing to keep to herself until folks turned on her.  So, be like Mrs. Johnson and take a lot of notes – you never can tell when you’ll need to address the Harper Valley PTA.

I know most folks are asking, “What if the Harper Valley PTA is much bigger and more difficult to handle?” 

My two cents is probably worth two cents, but my approach is to get out in the open where they can see me really well.  Also, I will make sure that the sun is at my back.  That way when they hold the magnifying glass up to look at me, it will blind them with fire (ants on a summer day).

Think about that…

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