When you know she is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen, but you worry she will not believe you are sincere. This is my problem. Today. To be solved for Monday (two nights and one day hence).
There is a secondary problem too: I do not know if she has a family, is single, divorced or living with a de facto partner, maybe lesbian, maybe celibate, who knows? All I know is that I love her beauty. But those are minor issues. Why? One reason is that if you wish to consider yourself courageous, then you cannot go through life wondering, “what if?” More imperative is the answer that beauty deserves to be known.
So what does that mean? Many things. It can mean that when someone does not see or appreciate beauty, then you can perhaps help them see it, and it could be considered a pleasant duty to do so. It can mean that if someone does not appear to know they are beautiful then you can gladden their heart by letting them know they are wonderful. It can also mean that you might feel you simply have a disposition in life to let beautiful things be known and not hidden — not hidden from sight nor sound nor touch nor anyone’s inner senses.
This is how I felt. I needed to tell her how beautiful she is, and how beautiful she might always remain in my heart and mind. So when I see her this Monday I will tell her. How though? The problem is not resolved. Telling her should be an act of love. It should be artful. It should be clear and precise. It should be poetic. It should be something no one can deny. It should be sincere and motivated only be the desire to have beauty known, and known to itself, to herself!
This is how it must be. Yet do I have the time to make the art worthy? Or will I falter? These questions arise, but my will-power must suppress them. Only the art must be of concern. Only the art must motivate my actions for the remainder of today and tomorrow.
Embarrassment is of small consequence in this enterprise. I must simply try. If I fail then who can judge me harshly? What is failure in this context anyway? I cannot care for it. Time and circumstances limit my preparation, but I can still be as prepared as possible within the constraints. This will be the art within the art.
Is it possible to become too clinical about art? Too obsessed by an ideal? Of course, but in the extreme limit there is no art. Obsession kills. We need to constrain it, bend it, warp it into something concrete and yet beautiful. So not concrete. Something organic perhaps?
Thinking now, … what shall I do? I know she is a librarian, so she enjoys books. What librarian wouldn’t? I am a writer, of sorts, and I have plenty of projects I could talk to her about. These will fill in some time. Not that I want to fill in time. When I am with her I know the time will pass by far to rapidly. Before I know it she will have gone. So I wish to make all things possible within this small fraction of a day I will spend with her. No pretexts necessary then, just establish a comfort level that enables courage. She offered to help me with some of my work, so this is how I will approach her on Monday.
Then what? Too many things spring to mind, and I am overwhelmed with ideas. The art is now to choose wisely. Try not to appear too crazy and maniacal. That’s hardly a fear, just something I’m musing on because my brain is bursting. It will not burst when I am with her, because she has a peaceful radiance, a completely charming quality. She is relaxing to watch, serene to behold, a joy to talk with. So I needn’t be too worried. There is just the effort now, the art to develop and perfect, so I can say to myself on Tuesday that I tried my best. My Dad would always say such things are important — to try your best is the real glory.
A fictional conversation enters my mind. She takes me to her favourite café. We exchange pleasantries, “How was your weekend? What do you generally do on weekends?” Even this is a risk. I do not want to hear whether she has family, or not, not just yet, so I’m holding my breath.
“So you remember this project I asked you about New Zealand law copyright law? Well, I discovered Google project Gutenberg only scanned the first volume. So there is a second volume you might be able to help me locate — if an English translation exists.”
She might nod, might ask a question. (In a fictional conversation it always seems difficult to imagine what the other person will say. The dialogue in my head is fuzzy. I hear her voice, but not her words.) Then I continue, “So I thought, if i cannot find a similar scan of Euler’s second volume, in English, then maybe you could help me find a library copy to loan. However, I should warn you, this could be a challenge!”
I’ll pause, and she might say a few words, intrigued perhaps. “Yes, you see, when I tried finding a used edition to purchase, the only one I found was priced at fifteen hundred dollars. A bit beyond my yearly budget for books. And normally I like to collect a few books each year, so this would limit me for a few years! If I indulged.”
“So there is your challenge. Do you think we can inter-loan a copy (there might not even be one in all of New Zealand?) and then scan it ourselves? I guess the inter-loan expense alone could eat up my book budget.” Chuckling — like this is a bit of an adventure, a crazy playful enterprise.
Having no idea what will happen next. My mind contemplates a turn in the conversation. I suppose the inter-loan idea is not very realistic. I’ll search online further and see.
Hopefully she will remember that I mentioned I had two things to ask her about. If not, I’ll do it.
“There is one other thing I wanted to ask you.” Then I ramble on a bit too much, but cannot help myself.
“When a mathematician discovers a proof of an original theorem, or even a new elegant proof of an established theorem, there is a very human need to show the world. Did you know that most computer software is basically a long drawn-out mathematical algorithm? Only significant difference is that computer scientists ask people to pay money to use them, whereas mathematicians give away all their intellectual work for free. There is an ethos, completely unwritten, yet adhered to universally (and I’d suspect also on any other planet in the universe where mathematicians have evolved) that all mathematics is for all people. There are no rights to ownership. This is a bedrock pillar of the world-wide community of mathematicians, and I do not know of any culture which violates this ethos. To most experienced mathematicians, doing mathematics is like creating art, or even higher in calling. I’m not sure exactly. It’s a different skill set, but the result is very much like art. I guess artists have fewer constraints on what they produce. It’s kind of circular logic, but it is true to say, that incorrect mathematics is not mathematics. One flaw in a proof makes the whole thing invalid, whereas a tiny brush-stroke awry in a majestic painting is of no great consequence. I guess. Maybe it would be for a Michelangelo?
“Anyway, it’s a beautiful ethos — the mathematical spirit — and it draws me more towards mathematics than physics or other sciences, where commercial interests are becoming far too rife.” (I doubt I’d use the word `rife’ in conversation, but … whatever …)
“OK, so I wanted to ask you one other thing …” I am finally getting to the main point.
She invites me.
I probably start dripping invisible beads of sweat, but I feel them running down my spine and ribs. The desperation is more about hoping I can constrain my awkward humility and self-consciousness. I’m beyond worrying what she will end up thinking about me. But if there is ever a time when you wish your unattractive features could just go away and hide for a few seconds, this is it. There is no need to want to feel enhanced in handsomeness, just let the ugly bits vamoose for a minute or two. Courage and confidence are needed here. Is this an art or a science? Can it (confidence) be willed, or is the brain just too dumb to know when to suppress anxiety? This element to the conversation is going to happen, so there is no point in worrying about it.
“It’s a little harder to tell you this one. I’m normally too shy. But it is like the desire to show the world an elegant proof. Only this one is fairly personal and hard for me to tell you.
“I suppose in some dim dark recess in my mind I worry you might take it the wrong way. So I have to tell you this before you prejudice your assumptions, or maybe before I become too presumptuous. I have to tell you this very soon, so that it is pure and untainted.”
By now she might be agitated, concerned, starting to doubt my sanity? But I have to persist. There is no turning back.
“Right. So this is a theorem not a conjecture. There is a proof which I will try to show to you. The idea is fairly simple, and yet quite amazing, it is this: firstly, you are the most beautiful person that I have ever met. Secondly, I’ve tried to shrug off the feeling I need to tell you this, since it seems obvious, but since first seeing you a month ago I have only become more determined to tell you. Thirdly, I will tell you the proof if you are interested, but honestly I think it might be better if I stay quiet for a while.” Pause.
“Those last two clauses were not part of the theorem. Just the first bit, that you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”
“And that about says it all, but it is so short and succinct right? It needs elaboration? What’s the definition of beauty for starters? It’s amazing because I never thought I would be honestly able to say this to anyone. It’s a huge concept, `most beautiful person’ isn’t it? No matter which definition is used. It invites disbelief. Maybe seems insincere. But I have proof. ”
Undoubtedly all these words will not flow, but something of their nature, I hope, will be expressed.
Will she agree to let me continue? Will she start to apologise and leave? There is no foretelling. So my mind continues to fantasize the conversation. Her body language is subdued, but hopefully she allows me to continue.
The proofs I have are some subtle and some explicit. Her face is bright and beautiful. Her body is perfect in form and desirable. Her eyes are alive with the spark of intelligence. Her hair is luscious, neat and fiery. Her voice is golden and bold, confident, and yet somehow humble. Her movements are the epitome of grace, elegance, self-confidence and style. The way she walks is alluring, her figure is compelling, her form is perfection.
And I might try to tell her, “I do not really know about things like human aura’s. But I do know that most people are electrically charged, having either an excess or a depletion of electrons. A lot of things cause this, but overall it is a result of many different biochemical reactions, which, if not quite balanced, result in the body becoming like a very weak battery. I’m not kidding. Electrons either flow from the Earth into us, or the reverse, and the small charge gradient is maintained by our biochemistry. Diet can alter it, as can other things.
“Anyway, I’m not sure of many other details, but the result — which is certain — is that people carry electric field lines with them. Or rather, to be precise, these are virtual photons, dancing around us like near invisible fireflies. They are invisible too, since they are not all in the visual spectrum. That’s why we cannot see magnetic and electric fields. But they are real. ‘Virtual photon’ is just a word coined by physicists for fluctuations in the vacuum electromagnetic field. They are real entities.
“So this is a kind of very real aura, which all people have.
“And I really don’t know, but maybe you also have some kind of aura which surrounds you? In any case, it is beautiful and I’m drawn to it. So much so that it might make you blush if I told you how much!”
And if given the chance, I would elaborate. I would tell her about the day I first saw her: carrying two large paint buckets across the road towards the library. I’d tell her how curious I was to find myself compelled to offer to help her paint the footpath. How I enjoyed the quiet serenity of the work. How already I felt somehow like, right then, I knew someday soon I would need to tell her how beautiful she was, because beauty needs to become known. Even if it has been demonstrated a thousand times before. The great prince of mathematics, Karl Gauss, would often re-visit theorems and create new original proofs. Isn’t that wonderful? That a piece of mathematics can be returned to and re-created with new elegant ornamentation and tapestry.
And the saddest thing is when, in this world, beauty goes unacknowledged and unappreciated. I suppose, for someone truly beautiful mere existence is fine, it is self-sustaining, but every now and then it is good to be told.
Also, I have this (possibly eccentric) notion in my mind motivating me, which is that I suspect the most beautiful people in the world are not often told this truth, because it is so obvious, because other people will not indulge them, because they are so attractive they may appear aloof and unapproachable. Not her though, not the librarian of Langar. This also adds to my proof — a truly beautiful person is not aloof, at least not consciously, because they are kind and warm to the affection of others, because they attract good things. So I can guess she does not need me to tell her these things, and she might be thinking I am a bit loopy. This doesn’t grieve me in contemplation, but I’m sure it will sting me later as she leaves. It’ll be worth the pain I think. I’m not launching on this little private micro-crusade for my own benefit. Not really. It has become a simple plain obligation. I see beauty. I must acknowledge it to someone. Who better than the one who radiates the very attributes.
So this is my lightest of burdens. It is easy to unload, although very difficult still — for someone so shy.
Hoping to calm my nerves I could say, “So there. I’ve said it.”
I might say to her, “If this were the only reason I came to the township of Langar this summer then it would be sufficient.”
I might say to her, “This all may sound outlandish and seem surreal to you, but please don’t doubt me. I feel I am, right now, at this very moment, in the position of a mathematician with a wonderful proof that must be shared, but who is so shy and sensitive they wish to share the proof only with the one person who needs to hear it.”
I might say to her, “A really good proof can often seem self-evident and so irresistible that you know it must be correct, but others may not see it so clearly. I can tell you that I am one hundred percent sure that I know you are beautiful, deep down, inside and outside, all around. You radiate peace and a self-assurance that is so attractive that I cannot be wrong. ”
Should I also say to her, “If no one else has the courage to tell you these evident facts — that you are incredibly beautiful — then it is my absolute privilege to be able to tell you. I am so happy I have had the opportunity to tell you. And that’s true even if you already know the proof.” Maybe? Should I say all that? I’d be smiling something stupid here. But no, that all sounds too trite, but something artful like this probably needs to be said, or is it pre-axiomatic and obvious? I no longer know. My mind has been contorted into that peculiar tangle one gets knotted within when trying to over-analyse the obvious, or complexify the singular truths of the world.
I have only a few hours left in the day now to perfect this artwork, this imagined conversation, and then let it be real. I wonder if words alone are enough? Is there not some more tangible way to tell her these things? I doubt it. Anything else would seem other than direct from the heart. Anything else more potent can also surely wait. Some of this art must be impromptu, because to imagine a complete conversation and try to make it real is lunacy.
Gentleness is required. Patience. The heart must speak, and if it is clouded by the logical faculty’s over-ride then a lot of the magic can be lost. Is this true? I’m not so sure. Diligence and preparation betoken love and honesty and desire too.
Time is short, and tomorrow has become pregnant with some kind of existential need. Something delicate and sweet that I feel will endure in memory for ages. A woman like her does not enter a man’s life more than once or twice. So the day must be seized, the chance taken, the proof evinced, the corollary accepted.
Now I laugh. What have I done! This afternoon I was squeezing plums fallen from my mother’s prodigious plum tree, and my fingernails and the skin lines on my fingers are deep purple, almost black, from plum juice stains. An inauspicious omen? Hardly! This is Aotearoa, the land of the All Blacks. I’ll meet her tomorrow with joy in my heart and black stained fingernails. No worries mate. The plum juice and puree are delicious too.
* * *
The next few days and weeks will be utterly painful. Whether she agrees to see me again or not. The uncertainty of not knowing how my message will be received, it is excruciating. Every bit as agonising as waiting for critical feedback for a submitted manuscript proof.
This will all happen and I cannot inoculate myself against any of it. It is quite the neurotic day-dream to be even thinking that far ahead. None of the repercussions are things I will plan for, and whatever my state afterwards I hardly care, at least not now as I write and think the final thoughts before sleeping. I’m merely trying to steel my mind to accept them. These are not the purpose of telling her she is beautiful.
All worthy art must suffer critical appraisal. The artist may not invite it, but cannot refuse it. They might ignore it, but cannot stop it. And so it must be with the extraordinary art of telling her she is the most beautiful woman in the world. A subjective notion for sure, but one that can be true. If not true and sincere then the expression of the art will be blackened void. If true it will lead to a realm of colour and delight like no mind can fathom without firsthand experience. The incredible thing is that to experience it one only needs the courage to craft the artwork and reveal it.
That is what I will do on Monday. Will it be fateful? I hardly know, I am not sure what “fate” means in this life. It will happen. It will have consequences, big or small. I will pray they are of the good kind.
It’s 23hr:58min Sunday now. Time to give in to the mercies of sleep.
* * *
For Kezia and Sylvie
This is my art lesson for today. Let your art be expressed and reveal it’s beauty. Be courageous and suffer any consequences from its reception. Be true to your vision, even if the dire clockwork of space and time have conspired to limit your efforts and constrained your artistic talents. Do not sell your art cheaply, but make it free for all. Beauty can only be perfected when shared and revealed.
(You’ll be adapting something like this, probably your original thoughts, for the boys you fall in love with. So just remember they might be even more turned on by the mathematics theme, it’s hard to tell from my viewpoint in time, but I hope you will fall in love with an intelligent guy. So if you end up doing something in the sciences remember this. Otherwise read a lot of literature, you will find inspiration is not always from within. The wisdom of others is a treasure, and it should be used. And do boys like to be called “beautiful”? I think the nice kind will not mind. The kind you will later wish you had fallen in love with. My only counsel is to choose your adjectives with care, because there is art in this, and there is love in care, to do things with patience and consideration is a way of expressing love.)
And, remember, there is a special art to telling her she is the most beautiful. It is like a concept that can be rendered into either cartoon form or lavish ornamental form. The former is insincere and cruel, the latter can be obsessive and garish, like an unwanted nightmare. The best art in this is to render your true feelings into a form that you know, inwardly, can be given away with the sole intent of making the recipient feel loved and desired, beautiful and serene, happy and blushed only with the sweetness of sincerity.
The essence of the art is elegant in its simplicity. To tell her she is the most beautiful woman in the world, and to do so such that she will believe it is true, I must only believe it is true and have the courage to bare my soul. And because I did believe it to be true, and because I am not afraid to reveal my naked soul, I told her.
The image at the top of this post is a Calabi-Yau four-manifold in a 3D representation (www.lactamme.polytechnique.fr) courtesy of Jean-François Colonna. Such geometries are considered beautiful for more than aesthetic reasons, because they could be structures within our own spacetime, endowing our universe with symmetries that enable the characteristics of elementary particles, like the electrons and photons responsible for our auras, to appear.