The Never Ending Number
In conversation, confusion between “pie” and “pi” in spoken English often leads to some amusement. Still, given that most pies are perfectly round, there is some correspondence between the mathematical concept and the tasty pastry. Because the puzzle of pi is so profound, it even has its own day (March 14).
Youngsters are often introduced to pi when in pre-algebra or algebra classes. Many find themselves taken back by the notion of an irrational number and may even loudly insist that the number can be resolved at some point. If your math class days are far behind you, consider taking a few moments to reacquaint yourself with the concept of pi and how it manifests itself in daily life, as well as pop culture.
What Is Pi?
Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is better known as 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716… and that numeric randomness would continue for infinity if you let it. There is actually no way to identify Pi using a number (because it has no ending), and that is why the Greek symbol is used. The more decibels you go out during any calculation involving Pi, the more precise your estimate will be.
Just keep in mind that if you wanted to calculate the vast space of the known universe to within a single atom, the 41 numbers above would be all you would need. After you spend time imagining what it would take to calculate such a distance, you could probably use a holiday. You’re in luck because Pi Day is coming to a year near you.
More Than a Number
So, now we know that Pi is a mathematical term for the circumference of a circle, it is celebrated on a date that makes about as much sense as it could, and that you get to eat pie (yum). But you should also know that its date is shared with the birthdate of the famous physicist, Albert Einstein (known for E=MC2), and it could be the cheapest day to buy a whole pizza for just $3.14. Seriously, if you are a fan of Black Friday, Pi Day has all kinds of random sales, including 31.4% computer discounts, and televisions for only $314. But let’s get back on topic.
Pi Day Origins
The day was officially founded by a physicist by the name of Larry Shaw in 1988 as a fun way to get people to see math as anything other than the boring, painful stuff you learned in school. It is also a day to appreciate the long history associated with people attempting to calculate the finite circumference of a circle. Hundreds of years ago we only knew the first couple of digits of Pi, but we also knew that there was more. Today, we’re proud to own the decimal out to the trillions, and some scientists are still counting with no end in sight.
Why bother to count a limitless number, you might wonder? Well, they are looking for a sign of either repeat or end. And they are also involved in a silent race to see who can count the farthest. There is even a man in Japan, Akira Haraguchi, who claims he has recited no less than 100,000 digits of Pi from memory, and it took him only 16 hours to finish. The wonder is if someone was reading along to check for errors.
And one more thing (as if these weren’t enough reasons to celebrate such an odd and quirky holiday), if you hold up “3.14” in a mirror, your eyes will read it as “PI.E”. Coincidence? I think not.
Why Do We Celebrate Pi Day on March 14th?
Pi Day is March 14 of every year (3.14). In 2015, the date of the holiday was actually 3.14.15. And then at 1:59 PM and 26 seconds on March 14 of any year, both the date and time recounted no less than seven of Pi’s decimals 3.14 1:59:26. This is the time you are supposed to be watching the Pi parade and eating a slice of “pie” (your choice of cream, pudding, fruit, or pepperoni.) And I could go on and on about the coincidence of these numbers, but I won’t (you’re welcome.)
Consider having a party on this day and sharing the fun with others. Cook up a few dishes in circular pans, serve libations in round drinking glasses and have some friends over for some light-hearted fun. For games, consider a circular jigsaw puzzle, or some scientific trivia.
Spiritual Significance of Pi
Some experts have noted that ancient mathematicians spent a great deal of time pondering pi because, as an unresolvable number, it perhaps challenged the existence of God who was perceived as the beginning and end of all things. Interestingly, this frustration may have led to additional mathematical developments as scholars put their minds toward resolving the conundrum at hand.
In other spiritual systems, pi is less of a problem solved and more of a lesson that offers us a glimpse at the divine. One explanation is that pi points to infinity, illustrating the transcendence and imminence of Spirit.
Another thing to consider is that pi is incorporated into our day to day lives. Everywhere that there is a circle there is pi. For example, the sun, which rises and sets every day, is a circle. We see circles in nature as well as in the things created by human hands.
It is up to you to determine what the meaning of pi is for you and your relationship with Spirit. In fact, you do not have to wait for March 14 to integrate a pi-based spiritual practice into your routine. Now that you have read about pi, you might want to take some time meditating on the concept of infinity. You might, for example, pull out a pen and paper, along with a calculator and begin to try and calculate pi on your own. While mathematicians have, of course, done this in the past, the very act of performing the calculations may give you a deeper understanding of numbers and how they work together.
Another possibility is to wear circles on your body during the time that you plan to work with pi. In doing so, you are directly interacting with symbols that represent both completion and infinity.
As you work with pi as a spiritual discipline, consider writing down your insights in a journal. How does an unresolvable, irrational number make you feel? Many people find themselves overwhelmed by the idea of a number that cannot be fully expressed. Similar feelings may be had when exploring the cosmos. The size of the universe, the existence of black holes and the number of stars and planets can be overwhelming.
Sitting with these feelings of being overwhelmed can sometimes be very positive. They can make us aware of things over which we have no control while also helping us to identify things over which we have mastery or the potential for mastery. Knowing where we are right now, and feeling our own power to make changes is a remarkable contrast to pi.
Feeling, and knowing that contrast can be a step toward spiritual empowerment. With this empowerment, you can begin to make changes in your life that can steer you toward the destiny that you want and deserve.
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