Nitya Teachings

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A Leap of Faith

         I was out for a run on a woodland trail the other morning, and as usual some helpful thoughts were surfacing as I chugged along that I could use in my latest writing project. I was thinking about the assumptions that undergird mathematics, that most rational of sciences. As a youngster I had whizzed through math studies until I reached calculus, but then I faltered over its core assumption.

         Calculus presumes that an asymptotic curve that approaches a limit ever more closely but never quite reaches it, can be assumed to actually reach it when it gets infinitely close. When something gets really close to something else, does it become it? There are many practical benefits to assuming that it does, but that doesn’t make it the ultimate truth. It should be recognized for what it is: a mystical or metaphysical aspect of the most rational of sciences. There is no quantity of any kind that is infinite: infinity is wholly beyond the concept of numbers. I just couldn’t buy it.

         What I realized in college, and what I recalled now as I zipped around a curve and into a gentle descent, was that I had not been able to make the leap of faith calculus required. At that exact moment I tripped over a small root in the path—no, not a square root!—and launched myself into space. With a body memory of years of competitive swimming, I did a perfect racing dive, arms outstretched, head up, body flat, and crashed with a tremendous grunting thunk onto the hard clay dirt of the trail. The trees shook.

         My first concern was if any serious damage was done, and miraculously I was okay. A few scrapes and bruises. Then I realized my last thought before I soared into space had been, “I could never make that leap….” My subconscious had taken me literally and delivered an undeniable leap of faith! I burst out laughing.

         I was still face down in the dirt, and I began to wonder what my palpable Freudian slip was trying to tell me. Did I become a worthless nobody because I failed to make that leap of faith when I was invited to, and soon after dropped out of the academic treadmill, or was it demonstrating to me that if I had made such a leap I would have wound up face down in the dust, full of aches and regrets? I suppose the answer is “both.” But I was still laughing. As they say in England, “Mind the gap!”

Scott Teitsworth