Exactly500Words, Pi and Pie

My birthday is today, March 14th, 3/14, Pi Day.  Besides being Pi Day, the coolest thing about my birthday is that I share it with Albert Einstein.  I didn’t even think about the association with pi, until I started seeing things on Facebook a few years back – it’s been celebrated since 1998 but wasn’t designated by Congress until 2009. For the last few years, I’ve celebrated my birthday by having a Pi Day celebration and invited friends to bring pies and other round food.  Every year, I look forward to seeing what amazing round foods we’ll have to enjoy.

I’ve been thinking about pi and pies today; about roundness, irrationality and infinite random numbers.  Did you know that pi is an not only an irrational number but transcendental one? How does this impact those of us born on the Day of Pi?  Pi is irrational because it can’t be expressed as an integer fraction. Un-Ratio-nal.  Pisceans (Pi-sceans) are often described as spacey, heads-in-the-clouds people who live more in fantasy than reality.  I chafe at that description, though I do have my space-cadet moments, I don’t think we Pisces have the corner on living in fantasy.  On the other hand, major important parts of my life happen on the inside of my skull.  Luckily, I’m a writer, so living with one foot in my imagination is an expected occupational hazard.  This vocation dovetails nicely with being a Piscean.

As I said, pi is a transcendental number.  What does that mean? It’s not the kind of transcendental that we gain through the practice of meditation or by learning about eastern religions or philosophies.  Pi is transcendental in a mathematical way, as it is not the root of any non-zero polynomial having rational coefficients. Not being mathy, that doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.  I do like the idea of both irrationality and transcendentalism being associated with my birthday, however.  I think it introduces something magical. And yes, I do believe that magical things can happen.  I guess I’m irrational after all.

I’ve long considered Albert Einstein the Patron Saint of Pi Day babies.  This was a guy steeped in science and mathematics, who was also a dreamer.  I imagine him riding his bicycle around Princeton, letting his magnificent mind ponder and wander; making the amazing connections he is known for.  I have always had eclectic and wide-ranging interests and I take heart in the diversity of his role models, from Isaac Newton to Ghandi, and that he was a musician and a scientist.  He once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.”

It is difficult to witness the mysterious if we stick with a rational path. In my search for mystery and magic, I happily follow the model of Einstein and the example of pi – embracing the power of irrationality, allowing myself to transcend the ordinary and opening my mind the infinite  possibilities available in life.

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