Monday, 7 December 2009


Being on the receiving end of a mathematician in love was not always easy.

“I don’t think there’s any room in me to love you more than I do,” he had said in bed one morning. “Literally. I’ve no appetite because you fill my stomach with butterflies. My heart feels like it’s about to burst. I can’t sleep or work because my head is full of you.”

Weeks later, he’d left her a note in her kitchen: “Every day, I love you more.”

When she’d light-heartedly brought him up on the apparent contradiction, he had appeared to take it as a mortal insult. A day or so later, he another note in her kitchen. She unfolded it. At first glance, it was an academic paper. It was written by him.

Towards a fractal model of love

I love you completely. I simply cannot love you more.

Yet my love to you grows with each day. This is no contradiction.

Our love may be perfect and complete, but it is no impersonal, featureless circle. Were that so, getting the measure of my feelings for you would be simple. [Here he had kindly footnoted with C = πd]

In my mind, our love is more like an island, alone in a storm-tossed sea. Its margin is made up of granite cliffs and rocky outcrops, bearing the scars of their battering by the elements. These are inset with sheltered coves, hidden caves and secret safe havens. It is a coastline as unique, irregular and storied as we are.

But measuring the true length of such a shore is nearly impossible.

Yet every day I spend with you, I can measure with more precision. Not just the general sweep of the headland and bays, but each individual inlet and promontory. I can measure the undulations of the surface of the rocks, the outline of the smooth, sea-polished pebbles along the beach. I can measure the grains of sand along the water’s edge, and then the elementary parts that form them , so numerous that there are as many to each grain of sand as there are grains of sand along the entire beach.

And every time I feel I can measure the outline of our love more clearly, so it grows ever longer.

I can measure down with ever-increasing precision, until nature can sustain no further division. I will have run out of days before I have truly found the extent of our love.

And so, although I my body can only bear a finite amount of your love, this is nearly limitless.

Being on the receiving end of a mathematician in love was not always easy. But it was not always without its merits.

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