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Memories, Dreams and Reflections - School Years - C.G.Jung-3

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Memories, Dreams and Reflections - School Years - C.G.Jung-3

What numbers are, and I was unable even to formulate the question. To my horror I found that no one understood my difficulty. The teacher, I musty admit, went to great lengths to explain to me the purpose of this curious operation of translating understandable quantities into sounds.

I finally grasped that what was aimed at was a kind of system of abbreviation, with the help of which many quantities could be put into a short formula. But this did not interest me in the least. I thought the whole business was entirely arbitrary.

Why should numbers be expressed by sounds? One might just as well express a by apple tree, b by box, and x by a question mark, a, b, c, x, y, z, were not concrete and did not explain anything to me about the essence of the numbers, any more than an apple tree did. But the thing that exasperated me most of all was the proposition:

If a=b and b=c then a=c, even though by definition a meant something other than b, and being different, could therefore not be equated with b, let alone with c. Whenever it was a question of an equivalence , then it was said that a=a, b=b, and so on.

This I could accept, whereas a=b seemed to me a downright lie or fraud. I was equally outraged when the teacher stated in the teeth of his own definition of parallel lines that they met at infinity. This seemed to me no better than a stupid trick to catch peasants with, and I could not and would not have anything to do with it.

My intellectual morality fought against these whimsical inconsistencies, which ahve forever debarred me from understanding mathematics. Right into old age I have had the incorrigible feeling that if , like my schoolmates  I could have accepted without struggle the proposition that a=b, or that sun=moon, dog=cat, then mathematics might have fooled me endlessely- just how much I only began to realize at the age of eighty-four.

All my life it remained a puzzle to me why it was that I never managed to get my bearings in mathematics when there was no doubt whatever that I could calculate properly. Least of all did I understand my own moral doubts concerning mathematics.

Equations I could comprehend only by inserting specific numerical values in place of the letters and verifying the meaning of the operation by actual calculation.

As we went on in mathematics I was able to get along, more or less, by copying out algebraic formulas whose meaning I did not understand, and by memorizing where a particular combination of letters had stood on the blackboard. I could no longer make headway by substituting numbers, for from time to time, the teacher would say, "Here we put the expression so-and so," and then he would scribble a few letters on the blackboard.

I had no idea where he got them and why he did it-the only reason I could see was that it enabled him to bring the procedure to what he felt was a satisfactory conclusion. I was so intimidated by my incomprehension that I did not dare to ask any questions.

Mathematics became sheer terror and torture to me,. Other subjects I found easy; and as, thanks to my good visual memory, I contrived for a long while to swindle my way through mathematics, I usually had good marks. But my fear of failure and my sense of smallness in face of the vast world, around me created in me not only a dislike but a kind of silent despair which completely ruined school for me.

In addition, I was exempted from drawing classes on grounds of utter incapacity. This in a way was welcome to me, since it gave me more free time; but on the other hand it was a fresh defeat, since I had some facility in drawing, although I did not realize that it depended essentially on the way I was feeling.

I could draw only what stirred my imagination. But I was forced to copy prints of greek Gods with sightless eyes, and when that wouldn't go properly the teacher obviously thought I needed something more naturalistic and set before me the picture of a goat's head. This assignment I failed completely, and that was the end of my drawing classes.T

To my deafeats in mathematics and drawing there was now added a third; from the very first I hated gymnastics. I could not endure having others tell me how to move. I was going to school in order to learn something, not to practice useless acrobatics. Moreover, as a result of my earlier accidents, I had a certain physical timidity which I was not able to overcome until much later on.

This timidity was in turn linked with a distrust of the world and its potentialities. To be sure, the world seemed to me beautiful and desirable, but it was also filled with vague and incomprehensible perils.

Therefore I always wanted to know at the start to what and to whom I was entrusting myself. Was this pehaps connected with my mother,who had abandoned my for several months? When, as I shall describe later, my neurotic fainting spells began, the doctor forbade me to engage in gymnastics , much to my satisfaction.

I was rid of that burden- and had swallowed another defeat. The time thus gained was not spent solely on play. It permitted me to indulge soewhat more freely the absolute craving I had developed to read every scrap of printed matter that fell into my hands.

Reference: Memories, Dreams, Reflections: C.G. Jung

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