In a discussion with my daughter this morning, I pointed out to her that often we don’t know how things are as they are, but we know what they mean to us. I gave her two examples of that, pi and her.
I pointed out that we don’t know all of pi, since it just keeps on going (I’m referring to the number, not the letter), yet we know what it means. Generally people define it as the circumference of a perfect circle divided by its radius. The meaning is more important than the actual number itself. The square root of -1 is another thing that is more important for its meaning than it’s value. By knowing its meaning, we can use it. If we had to know exactly what it was, we would be stuck for both mathematical values.
My daughter is another good example. On the one hand, she is a compilation of sub-atomic atoms that are interacting with each other and the wider universe. We don’t actually understand all of that. We could also look at her as a mass of cells, which out mass the other cells that do not share her DNA. Yet if we look at her as a number of DNA cells, the quantity of cells within the being we name as her which share DNA with her mother and I are out numbered by the cells that have no common DNA. (Of course we could get stuck at this point if we waver off topic and consider what is her mother and what is her father).
Yet understanding who she is far out weighs the question of what. I said that who she is to me is different than who she is for her mother, which is different to who she is for each of her grandparents. Each of us defines her differently. There will be commonalities, such as female, young, kind, intelligent and sometimes self centred. Then there will be vast differences.
What is more important than who she is for each of us is who she is for herself. I also mentioned that at 38, I’m still trying to work out who I am to and for myself.
Sometimes I feel sorry for my daughter. It’s a hefty conversation to have on the way to school. After all, we started off doing some mental math times tables.