In praise of pi

My son Josiah has been looking forward to March 14 for weeks. It’s Pi Day (since March 14 is 3/14, which resembles 3.14, the first three digits of pi). And this morning, on the way to school, he recited the first 107 digits of pi.

Yep. 107 digits. And I was happy to be able to quote 3.14159.

There is something wonderfully mysterious about pi. As far as we know, it is unique as a constant number, being an unending, non-repeating decimal. Even though Josiah has committed those first 107 digits to memory, he’s barely scratched the surface of pi. And because it can’t be written out numerically without cutting off an uncountable number of digits, we render it at a letter, the Greek letter for P. ∏.

But even as infinite as this number is, it takes part in the most basic aspects of our lives. It’s there, but we don’t even notice it.

The circumference of my coffee mug is 2πr. So are the wheels on my car and its steering wheel. So, too, are the pipes running through my house. And the area within each circle is πr2.

Circles are the basic stuff of life. And so, too, is π. Mysteriously endless and unnoticeably common. In other words, pi reminds me of God.

God is both ever-present and infinite. He continues on and yet never repeats himself. He is easily overlooked and yet is present in the details of everyday life. We reduce him to a single word or symbol and yet find he is irreducible. He is simple and yet confounding.

One last thing.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Pi.

Pi, who?

Forget it. I can’t repeat myself.

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