A Mathemagical Puzzle

If the settling-down phenomenon underpins the definition of probability, why is it that the universe tends towards chaos?

You know, as in entropy: a gradual decline into disorder (googled definition). How does ‘settling-down’, i.e. becoming more predictable, become disorder? My dad’s doctorate focused on applying the idea of entropy and increasing disorder to economics (and this was before computers). Maybe I should ask him. But if any of my readers would care to enlighten me I’d be most grateful, bearing in mind my woeful lack of education (I missed a lot of school as a child due to illness). I am currently studying Data Analysis as part of my degree  – this is fairly basic stuff, you understand. I am not really a mathematician, just someone who likes patterns and playing games with numbers.

Is it because the model is only a model and not the real world? But that doesn’t make sense either because if the model doesn’t resemble the real world it’s not much of a model.

I was feeling really anxious this morning and then I settled down to some studying and it again struck me how meditative mathematics can be. For someone who has a head that just ain’t right, mathematics is such a relief. My therapist told me that trauma changes the brain, and repeated trauma actually makes significant changes, possibly (likely) irreversible. So that’s me screwed, although actually EMDR did make an enormous difference.Thank God for medication. I hate days like this. But I’d still like to know the answer, if there are any mathematically-minded folk among my readership.

 

Stoopid is Stoopid Does

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Image courtesy of idpinthat.com

I hate this illness. First I miss years of school because of it and now as I begin studying (again) at the age of 39, I find it’s taken me about five goes to get right something I would otherwise think of as basic algebra. Every time I am making really, really stupid mistakes, basic mistakes like copying the wrong number into an equation. Repeatedly. I could cry. But I guess a better thing to do would be to get a good night’s sleep and try again tomorrow. Patience is indeed a virtue.

 

In Humility

Our sanctification [does] not depend upon changing our works. Instead, it [depends] on doing that for God’s sake which we commonly do for our own.

The Practice of the Presence of God

~ Brother Lawrence

 

I have a lot of boring tasks, being a housewife. I have had to give up studying with the OU, again, because I can’t keep up with it and keep up with caring for my family. I had my doubts about whether I could manage it when I started the course in October, but it was worth a try. It was with some sadness that I decided to stop, but also a sense of relief. Now I know that I am doing everything I need to do, not for my sake, but for His (also, God was gracious enough to allow me to leave on a high note, having scored 97% in my latest assignment, so at least I know I can pick up where I left off when I’m better)!

I have to rest a lot, so I have been trying to incorporate this attitude into even my resting. It’s not so bad feeling rough if it’s for God’s sake. The thought brings comfort. And then when I do have my energy restored, I can go about my tasks with a heart of humility and service. Also, I make sure that Sundays are a day of rest. This helps prevent any sense of resentment or negativity. God planned for us to work and be diligent, but He also planned for us to rest. I think we too often ignore this in the 21st century. Our digital era insists we never stop. But we must.

Cathy, Come Home

One of my favourite scenes of any novel that I have ever read comes from Wuthering Heights, that dark, brooding tale of obsession and death (why anyone would think it’s romantic is beyond me but that’s not the focus of this post). It is one of very few novels where the main characters, Heathcliff and Cathy, are utterly unlikeable yet remain genuinely compelling. Emily Brontë was a genius. This is the scene of which I speak:

This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten. ‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in—let me in!’ ‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. ‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton) ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’ As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear. ‘How can I!’ I said at length. ‘Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’ The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on! ‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’ ‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’ 

I have felt like that voice in the desperate darkness. Sometimes I have felt like I’ve been wandering, desolate and lost on the moors for so many years that I’ve forgotten what home is like. That cry of “twenty years!” strikes at my soul.

Twenty years ago my friends all went off to university. I didn’t. I was ill. Three years later I went away to college with a view to moving onto university after a year. Two weeks after that I had the utter misfortune to meet my first boyfriend, 12 years my senior. 18 months after we met he had coerced me not only out of my long-held dreams of studying but into a controlling marriage and even motherhood. I found myself mother to an autistic child (not that I knew that then, of course, but there were signs), living in a council flat with a jobless, manipulative psycho. What the **** happened? I spent so many years feeling like… like a cockroach. Waiting to be squashed. Disgusting and despised.

Nowadays… I sometimes just wish – I wish I could feel like I had achieved something. I wish I didn’t feel so different to everyone else. Last week I received a certificate of participation for a course I studied via Future Learn. For me, this was a big deal. Straight away I wanted to go out and get a frame so I could put it on the wall. I don’t have any certificates other than my rather pathetic 6 GCSEs. It doesn’t matter that I taught myself in order to pass them (I was too poorly to go to school most of the time). I didn’t do A-levels. I didn’t get the degree. I didn’t have a career. I didn’t do all the other stuff my contemporaries did. I never ‘fulfilled my potential’. So for me, this certificate from Future Learn meant – well, quite a lot, actually. But even my own husband made a joke about it. He didn’t mean to cause upset and I wouldn’t take to the blogwaves to complain about my spouse, that’s really not my point. It’s just that, well, sometimes I’m fed up of being different. I’m fed up of people who have led really good lives and they don’t even know it, who live like kings and don’t see it.

Don’t worry. This is not going to be a great long wallow in self-pity. There’s just one thing that I would like to say to the blogosphere in general: if you had the chance at education, at making choices, at being a ‘normal’ Western teenager, a ‘normal’ young adult – just recognise how lucky you were. Please. And if in your life you have been granted more than enough, whether it be materially or spiritually, in friendship or in love – please take it as your God-imbued duty to be thankful, to be accountable for what you do with what you have been given, and to share.

Actually, make that two things. There are two things I’d like to say. The second is to please try your very best to make the disaffected welcome. Especially in churches. Churches aren’t supposed to be full of well-fed, content middle-class people. More often than not they are. They’re supposed to be home to the movers and the shakers and the sinners and the broken – one big messy family, made holy in Christ. Last week I was brave enough to share with someone at church that I’d been receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She just frowned at me.

Churches must wake up to the broken within their walls, as well as the broken without. It’s not ok to exclude people because you don’t understand them or because they scare you. It’s not ok to not make an effort to include someone, however unappealing they may be. Ask yourself: who is my neighbour? What does that really mean?

Jesus never excluded anyone. In fact, He always did the opposite… and that knowledge always cheers me up no end. I know that if Jesus were to sit here with me, He’d say that I have been given gifts beyond measure. He’d point out that I’m just about to begin my next module with the Open University. He’d point out all the wonderful things I’ve been able to do with my family. He’d even remind me that, no matter how tough EMDR was, I’ve reaped the benefits in the past few months. Jesus would show me again my wonderful husband, and my super children. He’d say that I’ve found the most important thing in my love for Him. With Jesus there is no lost wandering on the moor. There is no desolation or despair. Jesus says, “Cathy, come home.”

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This post was prompted in part by a post over at Sacred Wrightings, which is a very good blog if you ever have the chance to take a look. The author, Terry, is much more learned than I and I have learned a lot from reading what he has to say. He’s also quite funny.

Unlearned and Ignorant

‘…when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. They recognized that they had been with Jesus. Seeing the man who was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.’

Acts 4:13-14 (WEB)

I sometimes feel embarrassed and inadequate when I think of my patchy schooling and lack of formal qualifications. This is particularly acute when I compare myself to my father, the professor, my sister, the paediatrician, and my husband, the deputy chief examiner. This morning, as I listened to the above from the book of Acts, God tapped me on the shoulder.

“I don’t need a piece of paper to certify your readiness; I just need your heart.” He seemed to say.

Don’t get me wrong, qualifications are perfectly laudable in their own right. I have admiration and respect for academia (and a smidgen of envy that will probably never go away). God just needed me to know that qualifications, or lack of qualifications, don’t make me any more or less useful to Him. But it does make me wonder what will happen in the future.

EMDR, LENT, TRAINING

I’ve had to take a break from my studies to focus on getting well. It was the right decision, but sometimes, if I compare myself to the world, I can’t help but see all that I missed. My peers went to school; I missed school. My peers did their A-levels and went off to university; I didn’t. My peers began jobs and careers; I didn’t.

It’s not that I resent the fact that I never had any of these things, because what difference does resentment make? None! So it’s a useless, destructive thing to hang onto. Nonetheless it would be so easy to feel ‘less than’. In the past few weeks of EMDR, I have had to face the extent and depth of my brokenness, but I have been strangely surprised by my strength too. Genuinely surprised. I may not have pieces of paper to prove my ‘qualifications’, but God has had me in training for years, just as today’s email from the Open Doors ‘Step of Yes’ series said. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, so God has said to all of us today:

‘…you don’t need any written instructions. God himself is teaching you to love each other, and you are already extending your love… make it your ambition to have no ambition!’

1 Thessalonians 4:9,10 (JB Phillips)

Daddy!

Happy New Year!

I’d like to begin 2015 with several ‘best of’s from 2014.

Best blog post of 2014: The Visit

This post has stayed with me ever since I read it nearly a year ago. Every time I think of it I smile and think of the joy of Jesus. It’s from the blog A Pastor’s Thoughts (which I highly recommend).

Best blog of 2014: Contemplative in the Mud

This blog is written by a devout Roman Catholic. We may have different opinions on many things doctrinal, but the core things, the things that matter, we share – and we share a common deep, deep desire to love God, to serve God, to live out God’s love in our broken world, set apart and yet always taking active part, more a part of the world than ever. Do take a look – there’s always something thought-provoking on Contemplative in the Mud.

Best album of 2014: Film of Life by Tony Allen

Wow. Just wow. I love this music! Original, clever and utterly captivating. Wonderful fusion of timeless African rhythms with a contemporary setting.

Best audiobook of 2014: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I know there is a film version but I haven’t seen it. I bought this after reading the advert and I was so glad I did! It tackles difficult concepts, but it does so honestly, earnestly and with hope.

Runner up best audiobook of 2014: The Siege by Helen Dunmore

This book made me feel like I was experiencing the Siege of Leningrad through winter 1941 myself, it was that good.

Best film that I watched in 2014: I am David

Best family book and DVD of 2014: The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones & the animated Jesus Storybook Bible narrated by David Suchet

Simple. Beautiful ❤

Personal Bests of 2014:

I completed my third Open University course and began my fourth in October, for which my first assignment scored a totally unexpected 93%! Thank you, Open University. You make me feel like I’ve achieved something for the first time in my adult life. My husband got promoted and we moved into a lovely, God-given house and have already, in the few months that we have lived in it, been able to share it. We have friends arriving for dinner in an hour. May it all be for God’s glory.

Most proud of in 2014: 

My daughter, Fluff, who has made the transition to secondary school look easy. I am so proud of her.

My son, Prince, who has been learning about how other people feel. This is no small thing for a teenage boy with special needs.

My daughter, Chip, who amazed everyone with her sudden-onset talent for swimming!

Best husband of 2014:

Frank! But I may be biased…

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Most of all in 2014 I have been learning, day by day, how to know more of God and how to lean on Him. I pray that throughout 2015 you and I will lean on Him, rest in Him, abide in Him. Run into His arms as if you have been apart for years, just like the clip below. I dare you. He’s waiting. Be blessed in 2015, dear readers 🙂

Gobbledegook

‘…for each x in the range of the random variable X, we have

p(x) = P(x)

… an upper-case letter… is used for the label of a random variable, while the corresponding lower-case letter (x) is used as representative of the possible values the random variable might take.’

(from my textbook, published by the Open University)

There comes a time in any mathematics course that I feel like Mr. Bean in the exam. What once made sense becomes unintelligible gobbledegook. This is when I stop and take a break.

Why I Love Statistics

I am loving my studies. It’s so much fun. I get to play games with numbers, call it academia(!) and learn something that will be such a useful, practical tool. Today I have been rolling virtual dice and studying the patterns in the outcome. This chap explains it all so well, although he’s not even a statistician. Watch this – just the raw enthusiasm will make you smile.

Reblog: Do we need trigger warnings on classic literature?

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Very interesting post from Laura Droege raising some thought-provoking points.

From my personal experience, when I was at college studying for my Access to Higher Education Diploma (way back in 2010) we had to split into groups and do a presentation on various issues. We were assigned the groups and the subject matter. My group was assigned sexually transmitted diseases. I volunteered to do the historical research, thinking that that was something I could handle. The others in the group wanted to use pornographic photographs as part of the presentation to shock people and provoke a response. While I could see why they wanted to do that, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I spoke to the tutor and explained a little of my history and why I just couldn’t do the presentation, though I would do the write-up. It was tough but it gave me the confidence (for the first time!) to not feel like I have to be ok with the same things as other people. It took me many years to learn that it’s ok to say no!

These days I avoid ‘triggers’ as far as possible and am waiting (still…) for EMDR therapy. Like Laura says, I know all too well the horribleness of life and need to be reminded, again and again, of the goodness, of the beauty, of the joy. This is why ‘one day at a time’ works so well for me; each day I can begin again, thankful for what is, practicing staying in God’s presence, and knowing that whatever happens, God is good (this helps because it takes the emphasis off me, off my family, off humanity even).

As for trigger warnings on books: it would help if there were warnings about certain more extreme things, but on the other hand some people have triggers that aren’t generally considered extreme, so they have to work out their own strategies, I guess. It should be made clearer to young people that it’s ok to say ‘no’. Also, what about books with ‘adult’ content that can be accessed by all ages? I think there should be at least some age restrictions. On the other hand some say that that comes down to parenting. On the other hand not everyone has good parents… If I have any more hands I’ll be an octopus. I don’t know. We have restricted access to television in our house and I monitor my children’s reading material. I think this has benefited everyone, not just the children. But most importantly we talk. I have wandered off topic but I do think these things are related.