It is March fourteenth, 3/14 in the States and so, Pi Day. Since 2018 (seems so long ago!) I have cooked up a post for Pi Day but for many reasons this may end up to be more of a reflection on the year past than an offering of pi.
In 2020 March 14th did not fall on a school day but I kept with tradition and posted a pi poem anyway. At the time of that writing I did not yet know that Friday the 13th was the last time I would see my students in person in the classroom; decisions and changes came fast and furious that weekend and throughout the following weeks as we went to teaching remotely in a local response to a world wide pandemic. It was not how I ever imagined my last year of teaching, for I had implemented personal changes of my own, and would be retiring at the end of the school year. Those last months were the most challenging I’d experienced in over twenty-four years of teaching. They also were a blessing, as that work was mission oriented and kept me focused as I served students and colleagues the best I could. I was reminded of what matters most.
I felt discombobulated in the blogosphere at that time, at the beginning of ‘sheltering in place’ and other new normals. A few of my prompt responses did reflect current events, and Kid and Pal, my Ranch Yarn characters, expressed their concerns at that time in rare front-page appearances here at shiftnshake. But for the most part I did as Kid and Pal decided to do and just pressed on as if the real world wasn’t coming undone by the covid pandemic and other atrocities. And by the 23rd of March, 2020, Charli Mills set up a page at her Carrot Ranch where Kid and Pal could carry on at the Saddle Up Saloon, a place that continues to provide for one and all an entertaining refuge from reality.
In the last year the Saddle Up is the only saloon, pub, or bar that I’ve stepped foot in. I have retired, moved house, and returned already to teaching part time. After a long tumultuous year, this March there seems to be some hope, some light at the end of the tunnel, though many things will never be the same. Too many people’s lives are forever changed by deaths and illnesses related to the pandemics.
Yes, pandemics, plural. Because in addition to a biological virus that spread rampant around the world, we are also suffering through the ongoing pandemic of hate and ignorance.
The culture that gave us scientific and mathematical frameworks; that has us still pondering concepts like pi with delight; that has been celebrated for tolerance and democracy— also tolerated the enslavement and abuse of other human beings, their democracy a form of institutional disenfranchisement for many members of society. This country, my country, was founded on those ideals. Yes, all of those ideals, not just the pretty ones; and this is not ancient history. Still, now, today, here— not everyone gets the same size slice of apple pie, if any, as true now as in 1776, 1876 and 1976.
Pi is an irrational number, one of division that comes to no conclusion. What conclusions can we draw about the disproportionate number of people of color targeted and victimized by the police, placed in our prisons? What can we conclude about leading the world not in a systematic and strategic response to the corona virus, but in number of deaths? What can we conclude about ourselves as a nation when a madman inspires and instigates a number of his cult to attack and desecrate the very house of our cherished mythological democracy— and the madman goes free?
Still, let us take heart. Let us prove to be a rational people, with a capacity for good that deters the infections of hate and fear. Let us address and solve our divisions with an inclusive conclusion satisfactory to all.
Here is this year’s pi poem, a tanka:
how they pried
blind scales of hubris