Approaching His Limits

Numbers, failure and Josh Kornbluth

"My world-view up to that time was—like my view of mathematics—all straight lines," he said. "Everything was black and white. But with calculus, you start to deal with curves, which is far more like the way life turns out to be. You get into the world and realize everything isn't made out of nice straight lines, parallelograms, and rectangles and squares. Building a bookcase isn't all right angles. You actually have to build it.

"It's like love and relationships. I just assumed I would go to college, wear a sweater with the arms hanging around my neck, and have a girlfriend who read poetry I wouldn't understand. . . . That happened eventually, but there were a lot of curves along the way."

Understanding those curves and realizing that you can't always negotiate them is what the show is about—what Kornbluth would call wisdom through failure. "In giving up with calculus, I had developed a way of letting go, in that I'd prepared myself intellectually and emotionally to finally understand [calculus]," he said.

Or so he thought. The happy ending of Kornbluth's piece would have him go back [to the subject] as a mature, wiser man and kick calculus' ass. "In the process of working on this show, I thought maybe I had just panicked in college," Kornbluth said. "Now that I am older and not pressured, I thought I could go back and realize I really was brilliant. But I hit the wall at the very same place. But I do feel I understand it better than I did before. . . . I think."

The Mathematics of Change at Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-4646. Fri., 8 p.m. $15-$18.

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