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.

 

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.

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: Little and Nothing

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I think this is why broken people seem to respond to God in a way that others can’t. Whether their brokenness is self-inflicted (by which I mean they have made poor choices) or whether life has just been too cruel, when you’re brought so low that there’s nothing left, you realise how much you need God and how you can’t even stand up without Him. This is why Jesus’ words in the beatitudes are so wonderfully true, although they seem counter-intuitive.

I’m sitting typing with my new Open University textbooks beside me, just about to begin the next module in statistics and probability. The more I learn of statistics, the more I realise how little statisticians actually *know*. But I still fall in love more and more with the numbers and the ‘truths’ they demonstrate. In a way, this mirrors my spiritual life. I’m making no sense(!) but I thank God for all that I have been through because it’s only in darkness that you can see the light. I don’t ask for more suffering and I don’t desire more suffering, but I know that without the suffering I wouldn’t know God and I know that my deepest desire has always been to know Him.

Lord, You are everything. Fill my nothing.

‘You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

Isaiah 26:3 (Amp)

Contemplative in the Mud

Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal

To be little in his sight is not enough; we must be nothing – this is the foundation upon which he would build… The greater our annihilation, the loftier the building he erects thereon.
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

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Dreaming of Shanghai

Shanghai_montageI have been attempting to write an assignment about the development of Shanghai for most of the day. I think I am finally getting somewhere but this one has been a bit of a slog. I am faced with the realities of being a mature student: our new neighbours are drilling through the walls (ok, they aren’t, but it sounds like it), my pride (I’m thirty <ahem> something – why is this so difficult?), my (sin of) perfectionism, a household to care for (taxi service to Theatre School, birthday party and gymnastics), and the inevitable foggy-headedness of my medication. I have painfully constructed three paragraphs, which I have rewritten several times, in an attempt to truly understand the question. But aiming for a degree in International Development and Statistics will be sooooo worth it. How blessed am I to even have this opportunity! How many times must we remind ourselves of what we have to be thankful for? God is always good. I shall be dreaming of Shanghai when I go to bed, I’m quite sure… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

A Step Back

A few weeks ago I completed my final assignment for my Open University module. When I (finally) get the results I should have ¼ of an honours degree under my belt. I am proud of myself for sticking with it and achieving this much. At the same time my family and I have had to contend with moving house more times than I can recall, my PTSD, my husband’s constructive dismissal, the ongoing dilemmas of autism, a police investigation, the sad conclusion of that investigation, being harassed, FIL’s severe ill health, MIL’s worsening dementia… and my own health problems. All things considered, the fact that I’ve had good marks for my OU assignments all the way through is great. It’s funny – sometimes you need to take a step back in order to see your achievements for what they are, to see how far you have travelled.

 

Sometimes, too, we need to take a step back and remind ourselves how God sees us.

 

As high as the sky is above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who honour him.
As far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our sins from us.

Psalm 103:10-13

 

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour.

John 3:16-17

 

Be blessed, friends.