Friday, 11 December 2015

A Brief Pause for Levity

A young mathematician develops an interest in Buddhism and signs up to spend the summer as one of the novices at mountain temple retreat. Sadly, he quickly begins to annoy the monks - partly with his endless and enthusiastic search for answers to koans, disrupting the education of other novices, but mostly with his attitude when anything vaguely mathematical is discussed.  They decide that an example should be made.

During an early morning lesson, the new novice is summoned to kneel before the master who announces that he is to leave the class for the day to carry out a special task.

"You are to descend the mountain," the master tells the young mathematician, "at the foot of the mount, you will find a stream.  Be at one with the stream.  Once you are at one with the stream, collect N pebbles.  Then bring those pebbles to me."

"Aha!" exclaims the mathematician, "But that task is poorly defined.  What is N?"

The master nods sagely, claps one-handed and responds: "Indeed!  When you have the answer to that question, you will be the master."

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