Some of you read Magical Math on Medium when I first began (consciously) playing with the idea that one + one has the potential to be greater (or less) than two.
I love the concept and story much — it feels fundamental to how I want to show up in the world. When I published Wandering Words: A Walk from A to Z, the story was incorporated into a chapter titled Kindle Connections. I’ll share the story here today for any who have not read it yet.
Starting tomorrow, I’m going to practice magical math right here — on Born Free Newsletter!
I have 26 collaborators to thank for their six-word-story or Haiku contributions as chapter heads Flourishing Fictions: Possibilities from A to Z.
Let’s play #magicalmath together!
And a word from our muses…
“Today at 3musesmerge we saddle up and lasso the possibility of a restless night,” Tahlia teased. “Come join us at our table?”
“Oh! And we’ve started sprinkling #magicalmath and #3musesmerge and #bornfreenewsletter around the 🕸. If you share our work you can use the hashtags, too. It will help people find us.” Urania straighten her skirt. “Creating awareness.”
What happens when 1+1 equals a sum greater than two?
Despite my well-worn, grey, pleats-near-the-shoulders, hooded sweatshirt, I was cold in the hospital waiting room. I saw blue sky and sunlight through the windows looking out into the parking lot. Outside the temperature was in the mid eighties, but my bare legs were covered in goosebumps. I’d rushed out of the house in my running shorts. We’d already been at the hospital for several hours — long enough for the air conditioned chill to reach my bones. I flipped the pages of a food magazine and found myself drawn in by a farmers’ market quiz.
Of course I know what a ramp is! No, a chive is not an onion. Iceberg is the mildest lettuce. Purslane — the weed that’s a delicacy — I wrote about purslane once!
Here’s one I was stuck on: What is the proper name for a fruit that’s a cross between an apricot and a plum?
The answer key on page 65 solved the mystery — e.) all of the above.
1 plum + 1 apricot = 6 different fruits! (plum, apricot, pluot, aprium, plumcot, apriplum)
Zipping my sweatshirt to my chin and rubbing my arms for heat, I thought of an article I’d recently read in Aeon magazine about philosopher David Hume — one particular sentence stuck with me and my mind connected the dots:
So you can prove 2 + 2 = 4 but that tells you nothing about what happens when you put four things together in nature, where they could obliterate each other, multiply or merge into one.
Bending down to double tie my strong-willed shoe laces — they frequently untie themselves — I thought more about the conversation I’d just been a part of in the patient’s room. I sat on the stool with wheels because the doctor didn’t need it. A monitor above the patient’s bed constantly flashed blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation readings. Sometimes it beeped.
Curly black hair, kind face and approachable manner, the respiratory therapist offered a warm contrast to the antiseptic room. She entered and explained that the medication recently administered during the patient’s breathing treatment was a mix of two separate drugs.
“You’d think one plus one equals two,” she said. “But with these medicines combined, you really get three. Combining them creates a third property that makes them even more effective. Make sense? Do you have the power combo for your home inhaler?” she asked.
Despite a pager call and another hospital employee seeking her assistance, the respiratory therapist answered all of our questions with the patience of Mother Theresa. She didn’t leave until she felt we fully understood the equipment, medication, at-home strategies, and follow-up protocol. Then, after a gentle well wish, she was on her way down the corridor to perform magical math with another patient.
When she left the room, the patient said, “I learned more from her in ten minutes than I did after years of doctors’ visits.”
The respiratory therapist, through her patient efforts, transformed what could have been a simple provider/patient conversation into something bigger. She’d pulled off the magic of 1+1=3. The conversation she made time for effectively eased the patient’s mind — a gift of love and compassion.
I’m now wiggling in my chair, anxious to get up and move a bit. Even though it’s still an unseasonably warm 85 degrees four days later, I have a blanket over my shoulders in our air-conditioned house. I get chilly whenever I sit still.
I’ve reached the point in my story where I could use a little help. Like all Olympic gymnasts, I like my stories best when I stick the landings. A recent read of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield has me consulting my muses. Real or imagined, muses are excellent coaches.
Urania, Calliope, Thalia? Can you put down your popcorn and send me a closing thought to end this piece? Please?
“Isn’t it obvious?” Calliope asks with her mouth full.
“Buber — I and Thou,” Urania whispers.
Ahh, Martin Buber, the philosopher who wrote I and Thou — a philosophy of relationship — the magical three formed when 1+1 makes room for one more — two together forming a relationship. One plus one equals three.
“Yes, that’s it!” Thalia winks at me.
Magical Math — it’s what I strive for with my words — you, me and our relationship makes three.