Sam Fajana spoke confidently and fluently as if he were reading from a book.
‘There exists a whole world which contains all mathematical truth to which we have no access through intelligence, just as there exists a world of physical realities, both independent of us, both of divine creation which only seems distinct because of our weakness of intellect, which are but one and the same thing to the powerful mind, and the synthesis being partially revealed in this marvellous correspondence between abstractness and a perceived reality,’ he said. This he had indeed got out of a book, but he had read so many on metaphysics that he couldn’t remember which book it had been
‘Life is about numbers. Every aspect has a conjugal mathematical theorem attached to it. There is the mathematics of absolutely everything that exists under the sun; including the sun. All is expressible as a formula related quantity with only the integral limits elastic. Tell me Musa, how does mathematics come across to you. Do you labour over theories or do you find real satisfying fascination?’
Musa smiled widely. He was flattered that his opinion could be of any worth to this lecture.
‘I love it. It’s like poetry,’ he gushed. ‘It touches the soul.’
Sam Fajana nodded approvingly.
‘Mathematics is somewhat similar to poetry,’ he agreed. ‘Both appear to seek the expression of simple phenomena in ways that ordinarily seem incomprehensible. The difference however is that while the poet seeks to capture his explanation by immersion, the mathematician must do so by exclusion. A mathematician, like a painter or poet is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas. Have you ever heard the name Bertrand Russell?’
Musa hadn’t. Euler he knew. Another Russell seemed to have written some children’s books. But Musa didn’t think this was in the same league as their discussion. ‘No,’ he shook his head.
‘Mathematics possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of a sculpture without appealing to any part of our weaker nature without the gorgeous trappings of paintings, or music yet sublimely pure and capable of stern perfection such as the greatest art can show,’ Sam Fajana recited from memory. ‘According to Russell,’ he added.
‘Sounds quite profound,’ Musa whispered to himself; once again humbled at his relative illiteracy. But he wasn’t going to die without a fight. ‘But I don’t see how that relates to reality,’ he told his host.
Sam Fajana was clearly amused.
‘What is your impression of reality?’ he wanted to know.
‘Well, life does appear to follow some obvious patterns,’ Musa shrugged.
‘Fish don’t fly. You can’t buy without money, and such,’ said Musa in an attempt at humour. The discussion was getting too hard and heavy.
‘And stones don’t walk,’ Sam Fajana sarcastically added. ‘Primitive minds can rarely see beyond such primitive sets of realities. But let’s get out of that sort of mind-set Musa. The truth is that we see too much of life reduced to a crude mathematical formula in which all the variables are so predictable that they may very well be universal constants to be selected from a ‘book of wisdom’, however contentious, and applied as the situation demands that we observe the limits by which one must analyse the formula. The answer is of course the same no matter which set of limits are employed at any time, which suggests that reality is itself a constant quantity; an absolute quantity. But it is at the same time, as unreal as the root of a negative quantity, because as we have agreed, there are no absolutes in nature or life. We can only consider situations in relative terms.’
‘I was only making comments on obvious patterns,’ Musa said defensively.
‘Obvious patterns? How convenient can mathematics be when confronted by an obvious pattern? It depends on the context. You and I could be easily convinced by an induction in geometry which consisted of drawing, a physical figure, making an observation about it and then repeating that observation on a few variations of the diagram – where ‘few’ might mean very few indeed because of our obviously limited power of perception. That settles how reliable obvious patterns can be when faced with physical realities. Of course you know of Euler?’
Musa nodded meekly. The conversation had begun to give him too much for the brain to handle within such a short time. Having made partner in the company, he had acquired also a responsibility to hunt for more clients. Driving straight from work, this was what he had hoped to be able to accomplish tonight. But here he was talking philosophy with this obvious nutcase. But then like the old Chinese proverb says: ‘Soflee, Soflee, Catchee, Monkee.’ Patience was required.
‘Patterns in numbers can also be very persuasive,’ Sam Fajana continued. Indeed the conversation had now become a boring monologue to Musa. But Sam Fajana was genuinely enjoying himself. ‘Euler wrote of one series through which each of us can convince himself of the truth by performing the multiplication as far as he may wish, and it seems impossible that the law which has been discovered to hold for twenty terms for example, would not be observed in the term that follows. As Heinrich Hertz, the discoverer of radio waves did also observe, one cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulas have an independent existence of their own that are wiser than we are, wiser than even their discoverers that one get more out of them than was originally put into them.’
‘You are wandering into spiritualism,’ Musa observed.
‘That is quite true,’ Sam Fajana nodded. ‘But then, the true foundation of theology is to ascertain the character of god. It is by the aid of statistics, which is mathematics, that law in the social sphere can be ascertained and codified, and certain aspects of the character of god thereby revealed. Thus the study of statistics is thus a religious service. That was Florence Nightingale.’
But candidly, faith from whichever way you look at it is about numbers – the frequency by which you impart a desire upon your subconscious to make it appear to be part of your consciousness. It is also about the number of sympathisers to this objective. But it is most importantly about quantifying your personal desire and how often you examine and affirm it, and how far you are willing to go to achieve it. And even whether the religious agree to this or not, god is about mathematics, to the effect that one may only observe god within the limit of your individual consciousness.’
‘I take it that you are not a great fan of religion,’ Musa said. He could feel another headache coming. What he needed least was to rediscover god. Religion was not one of his favourite interests either.
‘God is abstracted from the fine virtues of truth, justice, freedom, reason, love. A person who can be loyal to such abstract concepts rather than an individual or a place has the loyalty of a human being rather than that of a dog or other domestic animal. But what is truth, justice, freedom and so on. Do these words really mean anything? And how can we be loyal to them if their meaning is not clear? Are they not just ‘abstract values’ invented so that some people can make slaves of others by fooling them with such meaningless abstracts? The problem with religion is that it insists unreasonably to draw a mathematically precise line from an unwarranted assumption to a foregone conclusion.’
‘So it is your conclusion that mathematics is the answer to all the mysteries of life?’
‘I thought that I had already made that clear. The facts are that the study of mathematics is the gateway to the full observance of the nature of God. It opens the subconscious to the extent that the soul sees how puny its very consciousness actually is and eventually arrives at the conclusion that a person’s knowledge is finite and beyond that finite limit – God the greatest algorithm.’
‘God is love; most of the civilised world appears to have agreed,’ Musa dryly pointed out.
‘Love is as abstract as poetry, because it relies on organic status. Nevertheless, it is expressible as quantities which are purely physical, measurable, and deducible from mathematical expressions. When the variables are zero, the result is of course reducible to the value of the primal constant, which in itself has no value except to itself. A null quantity,’ Sam Fajana excitedly said.
From the short story, Manic Expressions – Brain Surgery on the Highway and other Manic Expressions , by Rotimi Ogunjobi