Baggage

Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind. When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.

It is a particularly telling gender difference. One that explains why when LZ starts doing his math, all thoughts of me fly out the window (I am not so narcissistic as to demand that he think of me all the time, nor is it necessary – one would swiftly get bored would not one) and why whichever country I wind up in, I take all my acquaintance with me through correspondence, as though there were long threads connecting each and every one of them to me, never leaving anyone (important) behind.

This quote I found in a book by Alice Munro which I am reading now, called “Too Much Happiness”. When one of the geniuses at work (for readers who are not acquainted with the jargon I use at work, ‘genius’ is taken ironically. ‘Native’ is not.) passed by my table and saw the book, he asked (very engineering-ly disbelievingly) “Is there such a thing as ‘too much happiness’?” See for the unevolved intellect, there are probably at most four different moods one can take at any time – look them up in any emoticon table. (You get more emotions if you are a Japanese native) That is probably the extent of the emotional palette available to them. The finer details of feelings may be lurking in their subconscious, but little articulated and never understood. If you’re happy, it is a good thing. Not only is it a good thing, it’s goodness is directly proportional to how happy you are. The happier you are, the better it is. How then can anybody have too much happiness? Is an example of the primitive, fallacy-rife reasoning I have to contend with every day. How do you have any meaningful conversation with them? I spend my days paddling in the shallow end of the pool.

I am currently reading the last story in this collection of short stories, the eponym of the collection. It is about a (real) mathematician called Sofya Kovalevsky, and how difficult it was for a female to get a job in academia in that particular field in the late 1800s. The Swedes were the only reasonable people at that time to welcome a female into their faculty. She says, and I quote

“Many persons who have not studied mathematics confuse it with arithmetic and consider it a dry and arid science. Actually, however, this science requires great fantasy.”
s.k.

Some context to place her: She was Weierstrass’s student and Poincare’s good friend. Fyodor Dostoevsky proposed to her sister, but was refused. What follows is an excerpt from the book:
***
Poincaré arrived at an exceptionally early hour of the morning, complaining at once about the behaviour of the mathematician Weierstrass, Sophia’s old mentor, who had been one of the judges for the king of Sweden’s recent mathematical prize. Poincaré had indeed been awarded the prize, but Weierstrass had seen fit to announce that there were possible errors in his- Poincaré’s- work that he, Weierstrass, had not been given time to investigate. He had sent a letter submitting his annotated queries to the king of Sweden — as if such a personage would know what he was talking about. And he had made some statement about Poincaré being valued in future more for the negative than the positive aspects of his work.

Aside: I take back whatever I said about mathematicians having too noble a subject matter to be bitchy or to concern themselves with office politics. lol!

Sophia soothed him (Poincaré), telling him she was on her way to see Weierstrass and would take the matter up with him. She pretended not to have heard anything about it, though she had actually written a teasing letter to her old teacher.

“I am sure the king has had much of his royal sleep disturbed since your information arrived. Just think of how you have upset the royal mind hitherto so happily ignorant of mathematics. Take care you don’t make him repent of his generosity…”

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