On December 17, 2011, while celebrating my wife’s and my 56th wedding anniversary and my granddaughter’s graduation from college, she and her boyfriend announced that he had proposed the previous evening, making the occasion three times more meaningful and joyous. Their story regarding how they first met and the way he proposed, as is the case with many young lovers, is in itself unique and charming. But no words could describe their happiness better than the warmth and love that radiated from their eyes as they looked at one another. This joy spread to the entire family, all of whom gathered around them, supported them and made it evident that we approved and celebrated their impending union.
As I sat there, I’m sure beaming from ear to ear, the thought came to mind that love really is closely related to mathematics. It wasn’t necessarily a new thought, because many, many years ago, too many, in fact, to count, I came across a poem by one of my favorite poets, Robert W. Service, which I put to memory because I thought it cute and clever. I’d like to share it with you now.
There once was a Square, such a square little Square,
and he loved a trim Triangle.
But she was a flirt and around her skirt,
vainly, she made him dangle.
Oh, he wanted to wed and he had no dread
of domestic woes and wangles.
For he thought that his fate was to procreate
cute little Squares and Triangles.
Now, it happened one day, on that geometric way,
there swaggered a big, bold Cube
with a haughty stare and he made the Square
have the air of a perfect boob.
To his solid spell, the Triangle fell
and she thrilled with love’s sweet sickness.
For she took delight in his breadth and height,
but how she adored his thickness.
So that poor little Square just died of despair,
for his love he could not strangle.
While the bold Cube led to the bridal bed,
the cute and acute Triangle.
The Square’s sad lot she had long forgot
and his passionate pretensions,
For she dotes on her kids - oh such cute Pyramids,
in a land of three dimensions.
This poem brings a smile to my face. It’s whimsical but, even more, it’s the basis for my thoughts and feelings that evening. I recalled something I read about love a long time ago. To paraphrase it, “To experience the real meaning and value of love, you have to divide it between two individuals. Emotionally, that makes sense to me. But, there’s also some subtraction taking place. Bushnell said, “When you’re in love, nothing else matters. In the state of love, all your trials, tribulations and problems seem to be taken away.”
The math doesn’t end there. When two people fall in love, their love is multiplied by the feelings they imbue in their parents and close relatives, who share their warm, loving emotions.
Think about it. One person finds another. They fall in love and there are two. That’s addition. Their union is increased by the addition of two families who, in many instances, never knew one another before, but are now united through their children’s love. It’s all math and geometry. As a result of love, the shape and size of your immediate and extended family is forever altered and the number of individuals who are intertwined because of your relationship is almost squared. Think about it for just a moment. Two people divide their love and emotions with one another and, in most instances, they eventually give thought to adding to their union by creating a family. All of which eventually multiplies the joy of so many other individuals by virtue of the emotions they share. For the moment, problems and difficulties are subtracted because love and goodness prevail. As time passes, they undoubtedly will add conflicts, which will subtract from their joy. But, in most instances, love and goodness will prevail and result in compensating balances in the form of a newly-created extended family, the addition of traditions and the eventual introduction of children. There you have it. Division, multiplication, subtraction and addition. They’re all basic concepts in mathematics.
Emotionally, you come to realize that, when you find each other, you can’t stop loving or wanting to love, because, when it’s right, it’s the best thing in the world. When you’re in a relationship and it’s good, even when other events are bad, life can be right, because you can still feel that your world is complete. Isn’t that what Robert W. Service said? “And the Square’s sad lot she soon forgot and all his passionate pretensions. For she dotes on her kids - such cute Pyramids, in a land of three dimensions.”
Before I become too maudlin, let me suggest several mathematical axioms needed for creating a positive (plus) relationship.
1. Always remember and hold onto the joy you initially experienced between you and, every day of your life, add to it.
2. Divide your love by sharing it with others. By doing so, you will not only increase your support system, you will also decrease the feelings of loss others may potentially feel because of your involvement with someone new.
3. Divide your time and energy, being sure to give equal portions to your new spouse, your relationship, your family and friends and, most of all, to yourself.
4. Don’t eliminate old friends, interests or activities because, when you take away from what has supported you in the past, you deprive yourself of avenues of support you may need in the future.
5. Never forget that your life, love and marriage cannot and should not be defined by a straight line. If it can be, it’s probably boring, unstimulating and uninteresting.
6. Anticipate that your life will be a series of ups (pluses) and downs (minuses). Don’t expect to alter that. It would only be an exercise in futility. Instead, learn to cope with both and to mitigate or decrease the amount and frequency of your downs and increase your ups.
7. Multiply your individual interests, activities and growth. Do not attempt to be the same as your spouse, or to eliminate differences. Instead, learn to accept and deal with them in a positive fashion. When you’re both the same, you add nothing new to give or add to your partner. Therefore, it behooves you to constantly grow and to share that growth with the one you initially fell in love with and added to your world.