Venus Automorphs Into Great Mathematician, Loses Psyche

Lyle Burkhead (
Wed, 29 Jan 1997 05:21:45 -0500 (EST)

Joy Williams asks,

> Are you implying that an interest in mathematics leads to a
> destruction of sexual identity if you are female?

Not at all. It's not a question of "being interested". Jennifer was
interested in many things, particularly philosophy, which is why she
was attracted to me. If she had also been interested in math, fine.
No problem.

Let me try to explain what is involved in this. Quoting from a
biographical sketch of Newton by George F. Simmons,

> When asked how he made his discoveries, he said, "I keep
> the subject constantly before me and wait till the first dawnings
> open little by little into the full light." This sounds simple enough,
> but everyone with experience in science or mathematics knows
> how very difficult it is to hold a problem continuously in mind
> for more than a few seconds or a few minutes. One's attention
> flags; the problem repeatedly slips away and repeatedly has to be
> dragged back by an effort of will. From the accounts of witnesses,
> Newton seems to have been capable of almost effortless sustained
> concentration on his problems for hours and days and weeks,
> with even the need for occasional food and sleep scarcely
> interrupting the steady squeezing grip of his mind.

"Dragged back by an effort of will": I'm not sure anyone who has
never attempted such things can understand what kind of "effort of will"
is meant here. Have you ever tried to run a marathon in two hours?
(or tried to run a marathon at all?) Have you ever done anything that
required you to make a supreme effort, to call on every last bit of your
strength, to push yourself beyond all limits?

Imagine running three marathons every day for thirty years, and you
will have some idea what it takes to be a mathematician at the level of

And it's not just the effort. Concentrating on math requires one to use
one's imagination in a peculiar way. It requires a certain inner stillness;
sex disturbs this stillness. It requires one to order one's thoughts,
to establish certain relations between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic

Now, let me rephrase my original claim: What if she were as obsessed
with math as Newton was? She would have to reorganize her mind
at a very fundamental level, and it would change her feminine psyche
into something else.

Coming back to Joy's post,

> Is it your opinion somehow that being interested in mathematics turns
> you into something non-sexed, or drains you of your attractiveness?
> Or interferes with your sexuality? What an odd thing if you do. What
> does one thing have to do with another?

Again, it's not a question of "being interested". If Jennifer had had an
absolute commitment to mathematics, to the exclusion of everything
else, that would have changed her. There is an inevitable trade-off.

> And er, just what would have her "female Psyche" have been turned
> *into*? A male Psyche? A non-sexual Psyche?

For all practical purposes, a non-sexual Psyche. Newton was celibate.
He was an alchemist who transmuted his sexuality into something else.

Joy, I thought you, if anyone, would understand what I'm getting at
here. Earlier today you wrote:

> we are ultimately responsible for what we manifest...
> I wouldn't minimalize all that you are to just your brain. You are
> comprised of many organs, your body has intelligence, your heart
> has intelligence, your cells throughout your body communicate
> with each other. I think the brain is the pinnacle of the intelligence
> of your body, but it is not the only source. Did you know your heart
> has it's own nervous system that interacts with the central nervous
> system?

When I say that concentrating on math for years on end changes
your psyche, and this in turn changes you physically, how can you
of all people disagree? Our bodies are the manifestations of our minds
and our spirits.