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Now, Is That Gratitude?

I’ve had amazing mentors: my acting guru Cameron Thor, 7k’s producer Eric Rathgeber, and my seventh grade Language Arts teacher Julie Crain, just to name few. When I sat down to write this, I intended to thank them all, but once I started in on my first subject, she quickly took over the entire piece. She deserves it.

In junior high, I indulged my impatience and avoided hard work using cleverness, humor and creativity. I faked my way through piano lessons by listening and memorizing instead of reading the music. I wrote eloquent book reports on Dickensian tomes I never read. In short, I charmed my way out of a lot of good learning.

My sister, however, was immune to my wiles. When I became a teenager, she even managed to get past my shield of raging teen-angst sarcasm and managed to entertain me while I learned, mostly against my will. I must have been about thirteen when Riki burst into my room, giddy with academic fervor, and said:

“Want to see something cool?” She showed me a piece of notebook paper on which she’d drawn a cube.

“So?” I replied. She turned the page over. On the other side, she had sketched what looked like a hopscotch court.

“This,” she announced, “is an unfolded cube.”

“Fascinating,” I replied. Ignoring my snarkiness, Riki produced a second sheet of paper, decorated with a scrawling geometrical mess. It looked as though inspiration had struck while she was flipping through Escher sketches and huffing rubber cement.

“Do you know what this is?” she asked.

“The seventh level of Q-bert?” She laughed.

“It’s a Hypercube. Or, rather, a three-dimensional rendering of one.” She paused then, furrowing her brow. “Actually, it’s a two-dimensional rendering of a three-dimensional model of a four-dimensional object.”

That’s when my brain caught fire.

I’m sure Riki went on to explain in vivid detail the mathematical significance of a hypercube – I vaguely remember big words like “n-dimensional analogue” and “tesseract” – but I was already checked out. My mind was drifting, my neurons popping in a new sequence. I was thinking about things I’d never thought about before.

I still don’t understand what a hypercube is, or why it’s important – but Riki did manage to teach me one thing that day, and that one thing probably changed my life. I learned that, if you want to create something unimaginable, all you have to do is start with something you can imagine, and then unfold it.

In the unfolding, you learn how a thing is built, and then you can build anything. That’s how space shuttles are designed, songs composed, and novels written.

Thank you, Riki.

family, gratitude, holidays, learning, Personal, sister, thanksgiving, writing

Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS. Cohost of THE HERO'S JOURNEY podcast. Rock musician, D&D geek, aspiring revolutionary.

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