Tomorrow marks for me the beginning of another semester of graduate study in mathematics.
I don’t know that I can truly call myself a “mathematician,” but I enjoy how the math dimension brings another facet to my life…alongside of writing, prayer, photography, etc.
The word “math” itself is interesting to me. For starters, in the U.K., it’s “maths”–I’m not entirely sure why, but most of the time I can catch myself and speak appropriately in this context.
Recently, I was reflecting on the word “aftermath.”
In Greek, the word “math-” refers to learning; the disciples of Jesus Christ in the New Testament were referred to as “mathetes” (sounds like: math-eh-tase)–learners. The word “polymath” refers to someone who is learned in many different fields.
To my chagrin, the word “aftermath” apparently comes from a different root, referring to the growing of crops. Aftermath then refers to a second-growth crop…in addition to the consequences or results of some occurrence.
But with my background in math, I was contemplating the idea of “aftermath” along a specific vein: what do we learn in the outcome of a particular event in life? Having come through some set of circumstances, how have we been shaped, how have we grown? Beyond the perhaps more tangible outcomes, what is the “second-growth crop” of learning that we can also receive as part of this experience?
All too often, I am more than content to just survive through a particular situation. I don’t particularly like having to handle unexpected scenarios, but when I must, I’m usually just relieved once it’s all over and I can get back to my preferred life of habit, routine, and ordinariness.
With this complacency, however, I’m often missing out on an opportunity to derive even greater benefit from my struggles. Failing to reflect, to consider the intangible results of what’s occurred, means that I’m losing the second level of benefit from my troubles.
And it’s just because I’m lazy, intellectually and spiritually slothful to the point that I’d rather not invest even more energy in figuring out what I can take away from the experience.
But it’s there. There is always an “aftermath,” always a crop of greater awareness and enhanced perspective that has been seeded and is ready to bear fruit, if only I would harvest it.
I might like to segment my life: to keep my learning primarily within my textbooks and courses, but that’s a sadly narrow road of experience to take. Investing in another realm of “homework,” to contemplate–perhaps celebrate, or grieve, or commit, or question–would afford me vastly more opportunities to expand my fields of learning beyond mathematics.
But there are no grades. No exams to prod me onward in this journey.
However, there is indeed a Teacher that I can learn from.