Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Piano Rain

I do not know the name of the piano piece playing on the radio now, but it is a good accompaniment to the tap of rain on the roof and the occasional swish of a car on the wet pavement. It is a sound I associate with summer rains in Maryland; but for today there is rain in Berkeley as well. This evening I walked to a cafe, and from there to the office, and from there back home. Low clouds shrouded the hilltops; then nightfall hid even the clouds. A sprinkle of rain wet my hair and glasses. When I looked at the streetlights, the drops on my lenses made the light dance.

I notice the smell of rain. It's like the smell of mown grass, or coffee, or women: pleasant, but insistent. I can acknowledge it and allow my mind to pass over it, but unless I'm deeply engaged in some other thought, I cannot ignore it. I don't want to ignore it. A good haiku might smell like rain: simple and familiar and elegant. I listen to the rain on the roof, and I forget the earlier flares of irritation with all the chanted inanities that make their way into the songs and conversations and advertisements and political commentary that I hear in a day.

Peace! An elegant mathematical argument turns on cleverly using a few tools to show a general truth. Physical theories are elegant when they explain much with little, based on a few key ideas which can be expressed mathematically. The principles are simple, though the results may be fantastically complex. Most faces of life are more inscrutable, their simplicity hidden below our fathoming. Complexity is to be appreciated, studied, managed, and understood; but simplicity, when it occurs, is to be cherished. And so I hunt for mathematical gems; and so I listen to the rain.