Years after graduating as an engineer, I still occasionally miss the mental rigors of calculus and differential equations.
We experience calculus when we strap into an amusement park roller coaster, hit the accelerator in our car or miss a step on a flight of stairs.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website, “Calculus is the study of how things change. It provides a framework for modeling systems in which there is change, and a way to deduce the predictions of such models.”
It doesn’t matter what college is referenced or if you’re in a red or blue state, math is math. It doesn’t change to fit the political wind.
The MIT site goes on to note, “With (the study of calculus) you get the ability to find the effects of changing conditions on the system being investigated. By studying these, you can learn how to control the system to make it do what you want it to do.”
So if there is a science that studies “change,” perhaps I can find “hope.”
Sadly, math doesn’t meddle with hope.
Howstuffworks.com notes, “According to Greek mythology, the first woman on Earth, Pandora, was given a box that she was not to open under any circumstance. Too curious to resist, she opened it, and all of the evils of the world flew out: hate, pain, destructiveness, starvation. When Pandora saw what she had done, she closed the box before the last thing in there could escape. That last thing was hope.
“Hope is the belief that circumstances in the future will be better. It’s not a wish that things will get better, but an actual belief, even when there may be no evidence that anything will change.”
So what happens when hope and change intersect?
The effect of negative-sloping economic indicators reduces the likelihood of future investments, causing stock market and real estate prices to tumble and forcing layoffs. The opposite is true when the change in these indicators trends positive, regardless of where you are on the curve. Economists can and do calculate these triggers.
However, since most of our eyes glaze over when reading math problems of any kind, let’s simply speak metaphorically.
Four years ago, we abruptly were awakened by news that our banking system was about to collapse, setting off an extended nightmare. While still groggy, we realized we rapidly were descending down an unforgiving roller coaster.
Because we don’t pay attention to the math, we’re surprised it took longer than usual to bottom out, and the climb up has been excruciatingly slow.
There might be many reasons to explain the unprecedented descent or the painfully slow rebound, but we’re so bent on firing the current ride operator that we never stop to wonder how we got on the damn ride in the first place.
We only can hope that something changes.