“Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic
While researching for a new book I read that algebra comes from the Arabic word for compulsion, the state of being forced into a certain act or condition, as in when solving for x we are compelled to seek an equilibrium of forces on either side of the equation. And it made me think today of how it seems as if a larger force were behind my resolution to set my thoughts into words. And of course it is a mystery what makes any human endeavor worthwhile. Why have children, for instance? There are those that think it is a crime to try to relieve your loneliness and lack of purpose by reproducing another human being, as if putting the burden of all our hopes and fears onto our children were the most monstrously egotistical thing we could ever do.
Our striving for immortality is the way we give life to our spirit. If we didn't pour ourselves into the act of creation, whether raising children or raising a barn, we would eventually wither and die. That's just the way we are made. We are all compelled to seek out meaning larger than ourselves. "Don't go looking for trouble," my grandmother used to warn me. She knew. My compulsion was never an easy one. At least all these years later it's clearer than ever what it is I need to do.
What equation are you still compelled to solve?