Repercussion of the mistreatment of numbers

Repercussion of the mistreatment of numbers

I’ve been time traveling with my Casio Deluxe Timer Time Machine for 36 years. But there were a few previous occasions when I traveled in time via other means. They were odd and spontaneous occurrences that whetted my now insatiable appetite.

One of which occurred when I was seven and suffering through a test on fractions in Mrs. Spitlock’s mathematics class. I went up to the teacher’s desk and said due to my gentle nature I could not subject myself to the barbaric bifurcation of numerals. I was sent to sit facing the wall in the corner of the room. I fumed, but not at numbers. I knew from School House Rock that they were neutral and innocent symbols that had been created in the test tube of the mind of some guy named Aryabhata. It was said that he came up with numbers as a jest to get a laugh out of his friend, Mouspetta, a great intellectual who was suffering from depressions.

Leonhard Euler

Numbers languished in obscurity for centuries until that villain, Professor Leonhard Euler, discovered them in the back of the janitorial closet (they were sometimes used as a semi-effective spot remover) at the Yekaterinburg University of Minor Arts and Sciences in Russia. Euler, a cruel and heartless man, took the guiltless numbers, and over a period of two and a half years slave-labored them to create mathematics for the purpose of, as he wrote in his treatise, Terpet’ Neschastnykh Durakov, “creating pain and misery for the masses.”

I had a pretty intense way of funneling my seethingness back then, and it must have ricocheted off me, hit the corner I was facing, bounced back onto me, shaking up the space enough so that I passed through a long tunnel of lights until I suddenly found myself in a stale, barely lit room, pilled high with papers and books. A craggy man was hunched over his desk, taking innocent numbers and subjecting them to harsh and demeaning acts. I tapped on his shoulder, and he swung around with a great fury. He shouted at me in Russian. I didn’t speak the language, so I did the next best thing, and grabbed the numbers off his desk and ran out of the room. I dashed down the dark hallways of the University as Euler ran after me. I could feel the numbers trembling in my arms. I felt a fatherly desire to protect them at all costs.

I ran outside into the cold, cold Russian winter. I was ill-equipped in my school uniform of knickers and sport coat. I shivered as I sprinted, and almost dropped the numbers. Euler was gaining on me, and I thought I was doomed until the sudden appearance of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Euler’s nemesis. Leibniz espoused the belief that numbers were the spirits of dead relatives, and were best left to haunting empty rooms, like attics and closets. Euler and Leibniz collided and rolled, entangled with hands on each others throats. Leibniz emerged the victor, with arms raised in the air, over Euler’s dead body. Suddenly from the corpse emerged the number 3.14159, which chased the terrified and screaming Leibniz over the icy tundra, as I faded back into the tunnel of flashing lights and found myself again in the corner of the classroom.

I turned around to see Mrs. Spitlock holding, petting, and singing to the number 5, while the other students comforted and sang to their various numbers. I looked down to discover the number 3.14159 peeing on my leg.

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