…the golden ratio

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‘The golden ratio is one of the most famous irrational numbers; it goes on forever and can’t be expressed accurately without infinite space.’
Live Science


You are reading the scene in Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things when Ambrose Pike discovers the garden at Alma Whittaker’s grand house, and asks ‘what mad genius took such pains to fabricate this garden according to strict Euclidian geometric ideals?’ He goes on to declare ‘It’s the golden ratio!’, describing its ‘recurring nets of squares’ and the boxwoods ‘[serving] as equation marks to all the conjugates.’

You don’t understand these words but you become absorbed in the beauty of the idea and the passion of Ambrose Pike, his wonder at the mathematical perfection of the natural and human-made world. And you know that you’ve heard about the golden ratio before. Only days before. You remember rectangles within rectangles, one character drawing ever diminishing shapes for another character on screen. A film? What have you watched that could contain such a strange scene? And then you remember. You watched Pi at the beginning of the week, Darren Aronofsky’s film about a mathematician who is slowly driving himself insane with unprovable theories. He meets a man in a cafe who draws these rectangles to demonstrate the golden ratio, and shows how these rectangles create the Golden Spiral which is evident across the natural world; snail shells, flowers, pine cones, storms, human DNA, the ever expanding universe.

And then you remember a radio program only a day or two before, a scientist describing the discovery of a snail shell with an anticlockwise whorl, the reverse of all other snails. The scientist explains that they search for more but only two others are found in the world, and when the anticlockwise snail finally has offspring, they are clockwise snails. So, the scientist explains, this is not genetics, this is just something that is. This makes you wonder if the universe is merely exploring its own creativity with this snail, activating the unknown, feeling its way into a new expression of itself. The whorl of the universe ever expanding.

You sit for a moment with the knowledge that the golden ratio has been brought to your attention via three different routes, three different stories, three different media. You have heard about the Rule of Three, the smallest number needed to create a pattern.

Does a pattern have meaning, or is it just another demonstration of the universe exploring its creativity? If it does have meaning, then the universe is trying to tell you something, but you don’t know what it could be.

Or, perhaps, this is what the universe wants you to know. That she has unlimited creativity, that the patterns are there for a reason, and that reason is her.

Yes, that is an answer that feels so true you sense the pieces slot effortlessly together in your heart.

You return to The Signature of All Things, and continue to read.

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