Things That Start in the Middle
March 27, 2014
I’ve been thinking about things that start in the middle. Since there’s been a good bit of talk in the news about the Theory of Inflation, aka theBig Bang, being validated I feel encouraged to be thinking about concentric expansions. In the middle of these thoughts, on cue, the phone rang. It was my cousin Pete, who calls me once or twice a year. Great! Just the right person! I told him what I was thinking about. At first he seemed flummoxed, asking something like,”uh, what do mean? Give me an example.” I said, you know, like snowflakes, or the universe.
Of course, being Pete, he did know what I meant, and what he said next was really delightful. He said that things that start in the center generate other things that start in the center. I had been looking at antique lace doilies, so I could picture exactly what he meant.
I’m so used to thinking exclusively of things that have a linear path -a beginning, middle, and end – that coming up with examples of things that start in the center was, at first, challenging. But once the shift in thinking occurred it was easier to come up things that followed this paradigm. Flowers, for instance, start with a barely distinguishable bud…
…which expand and expand and then bloom. Seeds, too, start from a central point, then send down roots,and send up shoots. And bowls, thrown on a wheel, start with a lump of clay and are formed through pushing out from the center. And then there’s concentric ripples when a stone is thrown into a pond, and sound waves, too. I am still looking for examples so, when you read this, if anything comes to mind, please tell me in the comments what you’ve come up with.
What got me thinking about starting in the middle was something (hard to remember now…) about wanting to make a book that starts in the middle, and wanting it to be something about the number line…
…which really is not as visually compelling as a snowflake or an orchid. At least not yet. Now, while I was quietly pondering all this, with my attention focused on the possible similarities between the universe and six-sided snowflakes my daughter called in from the kitchen asserting that six was a really perfect number. What? Was she reading my thoughts? No, she was making breakfast and admiring this cool contraption that we have which submerges and times eggs for soft-boiling.
Why, I asked her, was six such a good number? She said because it can balance two, three or four. That’s proof enough for me: so, yes, the universe must be a hexagon.