Day 725: Fractal

Yesterday,  when I was having some Christmas lunch at a sushi restaurant with my 16-year-old son Aaron, the conversation turned to fractals.

I’m curious. Do you know what a fractal is?

If you look up “fractal” on Wikipedia, this is the first thing you’ll find:

I don’t know the meaning of that little cleaning brush,* up there on the left. Is Wikipedia warning us that the “Fractal” article needs to be cleaned up and de-technicalized, so most people can understand it?  Or is Wikipedia suggesting that readers should brush up on their knowledge of fractals, starting now? Or is that brush actually an example of a fractal?

Here’s what inspired the discussion of fractals yesterday: Aaron was folding paper, like so, while we were waiting for our food.

IMG_4063 IMG_4067 IMG_4071

While he was folding, Aaron asked me if I knew what a fractal was.

Do you ever think you know something, until somebody asks you to explain it?  As I tried to access my memory of fractals, I was imagining interesting, intricate patterns involving branching and lines getting smaller and smaller. I wasn’t sure that was correct, though.

Aaron told me that a fractal

  • contains itself and
  • is repetitive.

I wondered, to Aaron, if I were a fractal, because I can contain myself and I am sometimes repetitive. (If you don’t believe me, just read more of my blog posts.)

According to Aaron, I am not a fractal. I’m not sure what Wikipedia would say about this, since I stopped reading that article once I saw the cleaning brush.

I wondered, at the sushi restaurant,**  if these things were fractals:

IMG_4061 IMG_4065

IMG_4072 IMG_4073 IMG_4074

I then said something, to Aaron, that I’ve repeated before. That is, I mused out loud that the topic under discussion might be a bloggy one. To my surprise, Aaron expressed an opinion that “Fractal” WOULD make a good title for a post. I’ve never heard Aaron repeat something like that before, and I could hardly contain myself. So I knew I HAD to write a post, today, titled “Fractal.”

That brings us up to now.

This post now contains a dilemma, that my other blog posts** repeat and contain. How can I write a blog post which

  • has the chosen title,
  • contains myself (truly and authentically),
  • repeats, in a contained way, enough of my previous insights, for continuity, and
  • contains and repeats a worthwhile experience for my readers?

This post contains something else that repeats for me: Once my mind contains an awareness of something, I see it repeating, wherever and whenever I am.

That is, once I was aware of fractals yesterday, I saw them everywhere. When I went for a Christmas Day walk, I looked for and saw fractals:

IMG_4077  IMG_4083IMG_4081   IMG_4092 IMG_4089 IMG_4090   IMG_4113 IMG_4119 IMG_4120 IMG_4124 IMG_4126

Are those really fractals?  What is your fractal impression?

When we visited my boyfriend Michael’s family** later in the day, were there fractals there?

IMG_4128IMG_4131 IMG_4134 IMG_4135 IMG_4136 IMG_4139 IMG_4153IMG_4143 IMG_4148 IMG_4149 IMG_4152 IMG_4156 IMG_4157

That last photo not only contains curves (which Aaron names as an important component of fractals), it also repeats bongos (seen previously here, here, here, and here).

I don’t think YouTube** contains any repeating song named “Fractal,” do you?

This was as close as I could get:

That’s “Fragile,” in a live performance** by Sting (who created that beautiful song) and Stevie Wonder (found here on YouTube).

Because I’m a psychotherapist AND a human being who has dealt with medical challenges my whole life, I contain more repeating knowledge and understanding about “Fragile” than I do about “Fractal.”

But that didn’t stop me from writing this today, did it?

Before I end this post — so I can, perhaps, go see fractals at cardiac rehab** and at work,** too — here’s another photo, which I just snapped:


Regular readers of my blog** might have expected that photo to contain and repeat one of my cats, Harley or Oscar:


I’d explain that photo, if I had time, but I’ve got to fractally and fragilely run. Any guesses why I included that photo here (and whether it contains fractals)? Any  fractal-post-related questions?

Thanks to Aaron, to  Michael, to Michael’s family,** to Wikipedia,** to Sting, to Stevie Wonder, to Genki Ya Sushi,** and to all who read these posts, no matter how fractal or fragile you are.

* Apparently, your experience of this post may or may not contain one picture of a cleaning brush.
** Which may contain those who may or may not understand fractals, like me.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “Day 725: Fractal

  1. I thought I knew what a fractal was too … but I didn’t … now I do.
    Thank you Ann!
    Enjoy the fractal festivities today 🙂

    • I did enjoy the Fractal Festivities today, Val. Thanks for joining in with me today. Now I’m off for another Friday Fractal Festival, tonight.

  2. You crack me up – I had a student once who wrote thousands of words about fractals, read his thesis to me and my neck has never recovered from nodding wisely – argh!

  3. My son, Matt, wrote his college application essay about fractals. That was 12 years ago. All I can remember of it were 2 words: fractals (of course) and iterations. When I saw your post today, I went looking in his room (where the detritus of his youth still remains, though he no longer lives there) to see if I could find it. I don’t think we have it as a word document anywhere…probably lost when his computer had a meltdown when he was in college. We didn’t think of backing anything up back then. So now I am sad (maybe wistful is a better word) that his brilliant essay may gone for good. Perhaps I will unearth it at some point as I proceed with the archeological dig in his room. That may take decades. I suppose there is the possibility that his essay is archived somewhere at his alma mater. Maybe they hang on to these things forever on the chance one of their alums might someday be famous and these papers will then become artifacts. I did find his SAT and AP scores (why did I save those???) which the Matt museum might want someday.

  4. will try to
    piece this together
    when feeling
    less fragile 🙂

  5. Now I know, Ann. Did I need to know? Will I need to know? Should I know? The answers all curve and intersect and are self-contained. Like a fractal. One woman’s fractal is another man’s tree branch of knowledge.

    • Which woman and man are we talking about, Mark?

      Now that I’ve asked one question, I shall attempt to answer all of your fractally questions:
      1. I’m not sure.
      2. I can’t predict the future.
      3. “Should” is often an unhelpful concept.

      Thank you for helping me understand, again and iteratively.

  6. Your blog is full of fractals, Ann. It’s a kind of excursion of inner recursion: expanding and tessellating. You’re a master of literary and psychological fractals both fragile and powerful. Geometry across more than 3 dimensions.

  7. But Aaron is very good with paper-folding. Like his mom, he has such an intriguing combination of strengths: artistic, mathematical, musical, logical, conceptual. I wonder if he will head towards engineering? Theatre? Medicine?

  8. I had to look this up. I found a definition of fractal in the simple wikipedia. You were so right about the regular wikipedia, but the “simple” one makes some sense to me.
    At the very least, I now have a new Scrabble word!

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  12. I used to have a fractal screensaver and it was mesmerisingly beautiful and very distracting. Thank you for reminding me.

  13. I’ve read a lot about fractals but still don’t fully understand them – I only know they create beautiful visuals I could happily stare at for hours. My left brain doesn’t get them but my right brain loves them!

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