Thursday, February 9, 2017

Like James Baldwin - refuse labels!

     Last Sunday evening -- instead of watching Super Bowl LI -- in a crowded theater in downtown Silver Spring I watched the recently-released documentary "I Am Not Your Negro," narrated using words of writer James Baldwin (1924-1986).  Baldwin was a contrarian, he avoided or contradicted labels and categories.
     One of my favorite quotes -- that I see as intimately related to discovery in mathematics (from Hungarian-American Nobelist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986)) -- applies also to Baldwin:

                     Discovery is seeing
                     what everybody else has seen, and thinking 
                     what nobody else has thought.

And here, from Jimmy's Blues & Other Poems (Beacon Press, 2014) is Baldwin's little poem "Imagination" which captures the same sort of mind-play that occurs with mathematics.   

          Imagination       by James Baldwin

          Imagination
          creates the situation
          and, then, the situation
          creates imagination.

          It may, of course,
          be the other way around:
          Columbus was discovered
          by what he found.

February is Black History Month and, although James Baldwin would resist the application of a label -- black or African or smart or silly or whatever -- let me offer this link that gives the result of a search of this blog for some poems using the terms "black" and "history."  (Or, better yet, use the SEARCH box with your own chosen terms.)

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