vectors of desire: 18 easy lessons

  1. It is a week (and I find I am bereft: a  figure who stands in for myself clutches around herself a knitted shawl — she has been abandoned on this bare rock by the Great Selkie of Mathematica, her watery seducer who for two months has been whispering into her ear the language of flow with an accent of precision) — it is a week since I last sat in math class which was not, as I had first intended, Statistics, but Elementary Functions.
  2. Elementary as in elemental, from the letters lmn  — for the limen, that threshold to the secret room where the  universe is woven, where motion itself is spun — shuttling back and forth between no and yes, light and dark. And also for lumen, light, that first and originating spark of knowing.
  3. Elementary as in the basic ABCs of the language spoken in that room.  The abcd, the abracadabra of the ongoing cosmic magic.
  4. Otherwise known as trig, also known as trigonometry, the measuring of triangles, the mysteries of the astrolabe, navigating by the stars —  but like all powers, destructive where it is misunderstood — so that trig was also that ship-swamping Hydra, Melville’s Moby Dick, Jonah’s whale, Leviathan, Chaos, the Apollyon of my high school math career.
  5. Flickr – Oregon State University archives

  6. As you have asked, I did in fact pass the placement test for Statistics.  We could, you and I, sitting together with a piece of paper between us, draw an arrow of intent — a simple straight line with small wings at its forward tip — and say it is the vector of my intention going into that test.
  7. In a universe free of any other urges or influences, that initial intention would have flown from out my breast —  the perfectly drawn bow of my will held out from my heart, my aim sighting down the length of my extended arm.  The feathers fletching the shaft of my intention would have brushed past, less than a whisper away from my chin, as I let loose and sent the trajectory of my choice straight into the eye (the central dotted i)  of Statistics.  But this world is full of competing urges and our crooked paths are never true and almost never follow pure intent but are always the muddied sum of all the vectors of earlier desires.
  8. Arnold Genthe, “Miss Diana Chase doing archery,” Library of Congress

  9. For example:  vector 1 – Urge to rewrite the past, reclaim the thread I let go of somewhere in the mathy maze when I chose words over numbers, thinking it had to be either/or.  vector 2 – Desire to step over the yellow tape — emergency scene — to step in, re-tooled and able finally to help Midmost child face down the same triggish demons who gobbled me when I was her age. vector 3 Passion to disprove the naying babble of Mr. Pale-Pudding-the-Advisor .  vector 4Anxiety that maybe I couldn’t cut the mustard in Stats yet, that perhaps I should indulge in a semester of mathy review as he had so patronisingly suggested.  vector 5And more mysterious, something stirring, pulling me forward, this sense of flying whenever I bent my mind toward Elementary Functions . .
  10. “Vectors,” says Fritz, reading over my shoulder. “I think I understand what you’re saying, but that’s because I’ve been listening to you all this while.  But your vectors are not anyone else’s vectors.  You make a religion of them.  You make them into a poem when really they’re just directed magnitudes.”
  11. “Directed Magnitudes?” I give him the sideways glance:  “So what exactly do you think a Directed Magnitude is?” .  . . . visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers?
  12.  However.  Also, therefore.
  13. A vector, we say when we are being merely mathematical (as we shall be henceforth and with a vengeance) is a force (i.e. a magnitude) sent in a certain direction.
  14. For example, focusing close at hand, the current here in the Columbia River runs, at flood, 4.4 knots, about 5 mph, north by northwest.  Standing on the Oregon shore, the swimmer’s plan to head straight across is the spirit of her intent, while the strength of her arms and of her kick is the willing flesh of that intent.  Where she actually comes to shore on the other side in Washington is a conversation, a compromise, a Jacob’s wrestle of her soul (spirit wed to flesh, i.e. intent•strength) pitted against and enmeshed with the deep flow, direction•might, of the river.
  15. Where she comes to shore — that place she lands, that child of her might and the river’s intent, that is the sum of competing vectors.
  16. Library of Virginia public archives

  17. “See? No religion here, no poeming —  simple mathematics.”
  18. Fritz quirks his brow at me, “Precisely.”













3 thoughts on “vectors of desire: 18 easy lessons

  1. I thought I had a grasp on vectors as magnitude and direction, until I realized you can add them in five dimensions as easily as in two, then I was not so sure what they were, because I could add up two vectors that were today, and have their sum land in tomorrow.

  2. I know vectors too. Like arrows. And math. And like nurses do: vectors: things that spread disease.. . Vector: always about magnitude and direction. God speed.

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