The Mathematics of Hafiz

comments 22
Christ / Poetry

Hafiz explained to us that,
given Mr. Findley’s unexpected absquatulation to Costa Rica,
he would be teaching the class for a little while.
Then he let go of a stack of books
from about eighteen inches off the desk
and when they landed
the sound they made was so big
it damn near blew the back wall of the room off.
After the dust settled, he winked at us.
“Mr. Findley,” he said, “was the Set Up Man.”
It was time for the Big Guns.
He told us the origin of the word Algebra
was the “reunion of broken parts”,
but on account of the fact that we
took that fact sitting down
he flung his shoe across the room
and dismissed us for the rest of the day
in exasperation.

The next day he began by saying
there is practical algebra,
like Mr. Findley had used to keep the dean preoccupied-
the kind you can use to figure
out how much fuel to buy per week if
it takes one quart of fuel to cut up
one tree into sellable parts and
you have property that yields a
hundred trees per year-
but then there is Real Algebra.
Then he winked at us.
We hit the floor instinctively,
but no footwear was forthcoming.

“As an aside,” he said, “the Beloved
asked me to spend some time with
physicists over the winter.  Those
are people who have taken a solemn vow
to abstain from dividing by zero.
Very devout, these people.”

“I have great respect for them, but…
(He liked to heighten the suspense.)
“…that is not my way.”
“The secret to Real Algebra,” he offered,
“is to divide by zero every chance you get.”
We jumped up and applauded,
but he jumped up on his desk and
cautioned us to be respectful.

He said a coefficient was something
you could put into words, like “mechanic”
or “butler” or “shyster.”
He said a variable was something that
could be anything- like you or I… an infinity.
Multiply them together, and what do you get?
We looked around like unwitting savants.
A mechanic who can fix anything, he said.
We jumped up and applauded.

He said Creation was a vast, holy equation
without any numerical solution, so why bother?
Only something endless like a being
can crawl inside of it
and straighten
the whole mess out.
That, he said, was Real Algebra.

For our final exam, he asked us
an important question:
“Do you still believe there’s any meaning
to the term ‘broken parts’?”


      • The broken parts are us….each Human Being that opposes the whole….the Human Species. The force of the Human Species, which is the essence of all cause and effect relationships, cannot be greater than the sum of its parts. Meaning, the potential force of unconditional love will not be fully actualized until all Human Beings have the capacity for unconditional love. Simple mathematics…..


        • Thanks, Rob. Your explanation is clear and potent. I almost think we are seeing two sides of a common coin, if you will, where I was reflecting upon a non-duality I find expressed through Hafiz, urging us to see the latent force of unconditional love that only we can “actualize” to use your word. We human beings exist on one side of this coin already as Whole Beings, but on the other side of this coin, in the world we wake up in every morning, we have yet to fully grasp and actualize this. This actualization- it exists, and yet it does not to the extent it has not been taken up and lived. It is the only thing that is real, yet it has not been fully released upon the world… I am enjoying this sharing in that dawning day…



    • Marga, the poem you posted is one of my favorites as well. I was paying homage in this variation on the theme:

      This line in particular from Hafiz-Ladinsky was the bridge:

      “The Beloved sometimes wants
      To do us a great favor:
      Hold us upside down
      And shake all the nonsense out.”

      I have a pretty tame commute, about half an hour typically. I do sometimes try and take advantage of the time to play with ideas. The Creator’s communication network is pretty good about tracking my location… Then I get home and forget everything, and sit at the table later in the evening trying to find the thread of a feeling I can pull on to try and get back to where I was. Sometimes works. Sometimes not. Ha!



  1. Have you ever seen this beautiful little video called Nature by Numbers?

    I love the mathematical arrangement of our world. There’s a logical beauty to it all…even if I don’t quite comprehend most of it.

    Interestingly, that verse:

    “The Beloved sometimes wants
    To do us a great favor:
    Hold us upside down
    And shake all the nonsense out.”

    Reminds me of my experiences after a traumatic event a little over a year ago. I felt like the contents of all the filing cabinets of my memory were being dumped out. All kinds of memories, both good and bad, and unrelated to the event, came tumbling out. And like a child’s Viewmaster toy, I kept seeing different images before my eyes. It wasn’t frightening, but it was rather dizzying.

    I looked up that poem…

    Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
    Break all our teacup talk of God.

    If you had the courage and
    Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
    He would just drag you around the room
    By your hair,
    Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
    That bring you no joy.

    Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
    And wants to rip to shreds
    All your erroneous notions of truth

    That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
    And with others,

    Causing the world to weep
    On too many fine days.

    God wants to manhandle us,
    Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
    And practice His dropkick.

    The Beloved sometimes wants
    To do us a great favor:

    Hold us upside down
    And shake all the nonsense out.

    But when we hear
    He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
    Most everyone I know
    Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
    Out of town.
    ~ Hafiz

    I was going to say more…but it’s hard to see the screen through my tears…


    • Lovely video. I love this poem, too. I tried to pay some homage to it in this earlier post of mine:

      There is indeed a logical beauty to the world. I think the Math in which we are immersed is both multi-faceted and perhaps something like an infinite set of nested dolls of logical architectures. There are these points of inconsistency where one order spills into the next. So much to be discovered… I was thinking the other day about the square root of negative one business, and complex/imaginary numbers, and the beguiling way they seem to correspond to “real” things in our world. I was thinking they suggest the way our world intersects with others, and the math of that intersection are filled by these imaginary numbers. Probably a gross distortion of mathematical knowledge, for which I apologize… Just a fun thought.

      As far as coming out… some technical writings of mine from a “former life” are here…



      • No apologies needed. I’m glad you enjoyed the video. And I did read that poem (didn’t comment on it yet…will soon).

        I’m always intrigued by numbers even though I would say I have a form of dyscalculia. I can’t hold numbers in my head long enough to ponder them…it’s quite sad, really. They dissolve in my mind too quickly. But give me a piece of paper and a pencil and I’m good to go. But it’s odd, too, because I have other strengths – like I have good intuition for direction and can sometimes just “know” when something will fit or not. Like my husband had to put together an L-shaped bunk bed. It could go only a certain way in the room. The way he was about to build it was completely opposite how it was supposed to go. For the longest time he was sure he was write. Until I insisted it was the opposite and I drew it out for him.

        At any rate…

        I try to write posts about math or physics once in a while…for fun.

        If you haven’t read of Hofstadter’s works, particularly Metamagical Themas I’m thinking of, you’d probably enjoy it.

        Wow, that’s really intriguing research – and surprised me that it was out of Purdue U (I’m a graduate of Purdue Cal) I’ve of course heard the term biological clock, but I really had no idea it really had that kind of research behind it. I actually enjoyed reading that article; though since I have a headache, I’m not able to be very articulate about it now. Thank you for sharing it with me. Makes my brain happy.

        I really like what you said here, in this other post

        “For me, what is most significant however is that he has ensured that profundity and greatness reside firmly within the grasp of every human: the natural outcomes of simplicity, honesty, and the desire to connect in a deep way with the surrounding world. Its messy, uncertain, sometimes tenuous, and often painfully challenging, but its real, genuine, and authentic.”

        You’d probably also like the movie Dirt!

        I better go to bed because I’m losing coherent thought…

        I’ll write you again soon.


        • I’m glad you found that previous blog on Christopher Alexander. I’ve been thinking of writing some sort of blog post comparing his thoughts on generative sequences with healing, but haven’t gotten around to it. Now I’m thinking I can steal my own work and take the easy way out…

          I looked at a page about Dirt! Looks interesting. I read Microcosmos by Zimmer I think, which was all about the discoveries that have been made by researching the E. Coli organism, and it was fascinating. I also read, along somewhat similar lines, the book by Stamets on mushrooms. The name escapes me. Really interesting as well. I haven’t read a book like that in some time. My waves of interest have sort of spun in new directions.

          I’m not familiar with dyscalculia, but it sounds like a challenge for sure. It is amazing how a disability can cohabitate with a different sort of aptitude, though, like your ability to see geometric relationships. Like our own ability as humans to be clueless and brilliant all at once!



      • oh yeah, one more for tonight re: math

        you might get a kick out of this Symphony of Science vid.

        Love Carl Sagan….


      • hmmm….

        didn’t know that Stamets knew about psilocybin mushrooms (a.k.a. “magic mushrooms”). that particular kind has come up in my research on expanding states of consciousness. i am not sure I’d ever want to, because i’d rather practice altering my consciousness without chemical assistance (and as I say that, I know darn well that love and come to think of it, sex, involve both chemicals and can induce altered states of consciousness…)

        ah, E. Coli. Reminds me of my old days in the food microbiology lab. I ran tests on food products, some tests were for E.coli…usually found in the intestinal tracts of animals and humans…that was eons ago.

        oh, i don’t think of it as a disability as much of as an annoyance. didn’t trouble me like dyslexia would a dyslexic. It just made math processing speeds slower because I had to write a lot out by hand. thankfully because i’m not expected to do mental math much…it’s not really a problem. it’s not severe, I can add-subtract, multiply and divide single digits in my head. I can do some easy 2 digit manipulations. And I can’t lay back on my bed and think mathematically. Sometimes I just think that would be interesting to do that.

        “his thoughts on generative sequences with healing, but haven’t gotten around to it…”

        if you get the chance to…yeah that would be nice.

        well, that’s it for tonight. i think i still haven’t caught up. but i tried….




        • You are caught up. If we’re in the midst of something that is never-ending, who the hell ever gets caught up!?

          One of the most interesting points in Stamets book (Mycelium Running was the one) was the description of whole forests connected by single mats of fungi in the soil, like super-organisms. I thought that was really interesting. Have you ever read the book the Rainbow and the Worm? If I was going to recommend a single book about biology and the science of life to anyone, it would be that one. It is like the physics-defying physics of living matter. Incredible… Organism as laser. Organism as jazz ensemble…

          I’ll have to dig up some Christopher Alexander in the near future. Thanks for the encouragement. Have a great night.



      • “You are caught up. If we’re in the midst of something that is never-ending, who the hell ever gets caught up!?”

        That warmed my heart. .

        I decided to place an amazon order…for the Rainbow and the Worm and for A Course In Love. I’m looking forward to reading both. I’ll probably get the Course in Miracles too…eventually.

        “One of the most interesting points in Stamets book (Mycelium Running was the one) was the description of whole forests connected by single mats of fungi in the soil, like super-organisms.” That’s really cool. I believe it, too.

        Have you ever watched the movie I AM, by Tom Shadyac?

        Hope you have a beautiful day.



        • Wonderful! On a couple of fronts. Hope you enjoy the books. I went to London once briefly several years ago and met Mae-Wan Ho, the author of the Rainbow and the Worm. She is really great.

          I haven’t seen the move but I watched the preview and it looks great. I will add it to the list. I have this problem of not wanting to stop something I’ve begun before it is complete, and I’m working slowly to get through Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day. Once that is cleared off my plate, maybe I’ll have time to delve into some of these other things.



          • Yeah, my ADD brain can’t read one thing at a time. It’s a bad habit. I wish I didn’t want to stop something before I chase another rabbit down another rabbit hole. But I tend to think overall it’s okay. Rather than taking in information in a linear fashion, I’m reaching across different fields and I’m finding a lot of synchronicity in it all.

            I’m loving the connections I’m discovering. I was reading an article from Gede Prama called The Healing Power of Joy who tales about Fritjof Capra – a physicist who wrote the The Hidden Connection. Have you heard of him?

            When I looked him up, I found this link.


            I’m rather delighted. I’ve always been fond of DaVinci – I have a big coffee table book about him and I even have one of his models I want to build with the daughters.

            At any rate, I have heard of Thomas Pynchon, but I’ve been trying to figure out in what context. I thought maybe Jack Kerouac, but it’s probably more Timothy Leary, or maybe David Foster Wallace…RIP 😦

            Hmmm, as far as Against the Day goes…I’m not sure I’d want to read it.

            I looked it up on wiki…I’m not sure…

            “Pynchon promises “cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi and Groucho Marx”, as well as “stupid songs” and “strange sexual practices”.

            I love Telsa (even wrote a post about him), and I am curious about the strange sexual practices…but otherwise it doesn’t strike me as gripping and it supposedly has a lot of plot dead-ends…so…I don’t know.

            How do you like it?



            • I love that feeling of synchronicity one finds in delving into other disciplines and fields and discovering connections. It is one of the true wonders of life I think.

              As for Pynchon, that review seems designed to sell books perhaps. I’m not sure. It calls attention to props in the novel that roughly 2/3 in, don’t play strong roles. It would be like saying you really should see the Wizard of Oz because it has strange colored plants, a city made of gemstones, and defrauded wizard. Not untrue, but does that define the story?

              There are indeed a number of plots that have perhaps withered away, but I think I insist on reading Pynchon because I feel I am glimpsing an incredible mind. It’s like a tiny window into a glorious frontier I wouldn’t otherwise have imagined, and although it isn’t as satisfying as some other works in some ways, it resonates in some other ways with me that other writers don’t- the wit in his dialogue, the sudden shifting in scenes, and I guess most importantly his grasp and interweaving of esoteric elements of our lives into the story.

              I’ll give one example of the latter: his weaving of this theme of complex numbers, birefringent crystalline materials, and the ghosts or specters of our souls and our time all line up in the story. They are written about with prose that is at once technical and precise, and poetic. I love this aspect of the novel: living cells are domains of birefringent liquid crystal (you’ll see when you read Rainbow and the Worm), domains where light both cancels itself and reveals itself in new ways.

              These characters of Pynchon are kind of like this: they cancel one another out yet reveal something in the process. It is not a riveting novel plotwise, and it isn’t always easy, but I find things in Pynchon I’ve not found in others. It is, I think, somehow worth the effort.



            • The weirdest thing about synchronicity is that I’ve kept my mind open enough that when I’m out and about in the world, I find books I’m looking for at the thrift shop within a few days of thinking about it.

              I think what you are saying about Pynchon is wonderful. I love peering inside brilliant minds. Sometimes I prefer their novels, other times, I prefer reading their journals or their letters.

              The way you talk about Pychon’s book makes it fascinating.

              I’m looking up birefringence…and yeah, though I’d never heard the term, I certainly like what it’s pulled up when I googled it.

              The technology I used to use had involved DNA molecules tagged with fluorescent markers so that a laser and CCD camera could collect data. It was pretty cool stuff.

              Apparently, though I’m not a girly girl, they have a birefringent nail polish. At least that’s what they call it….

              One of the things I love most about science is how much like magic tricks they are.

              I wanted to share a particular demonstration I did with jello and a laser pointer. With my girls, we made fiber optics out of lemon jello.

              It rocked!


              I am thinking that I need to really get back into blogging about science. There’s so many cool things I want to play with…


            • That jello experiment is very cool. You answered a question I didn’t know I had, about how light stays within the fiber. That makes perfect sense!

              Be careful with my description of Pynchon. I think you have to choose to read him that way to have that experience. Ha! I’m just saying, of the book recommendations I’ve made to you recently, this one comes in third on probability of your being glad of the recommendation. I view reading Pynchon as part of an intellectual practice, like a discipline, or a yoga. 🙂 Sometimes it’s just plain painful, but there are moments of such light…



      • Oh, yeah, and jazz keeps coming up a lot lately as a theme in my life…i wonder why that is…which reminds me I should write my story about Jarvis the jazz musician…I think enough time has passed…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.