Vesna Todorčević, PhD, Associate Research Professor at the SASA Mathematical Institute; Associate Professor at the University of Belgrade’s Faculty Of Organisational Sciences

Maths and the Beauty of the World

I’ve toured the world thanks to mathematics. Congresses and conferences in distant lands freed me of my old self, my authenticity flourished, returning me like winds and waves to my children and the people I love

Vesna Todorčević

When my first son Luka was a little boy, I read fairy tales of the nations of the world to him, I think we covered almost the entire edition. But the most beautiful of all, both to him and to me, were Uzbek. Back then I never even dreamt that I would one day visit that country and the city where they were wrote, particularly the fairy tale “Qora sochli pari”, about the precocious, righteous, beautiful dark-haired Qorasoch and her exploits. I found a doll with her features and brought it for my daughter Jana.

Luka went through all my ups and downs with me – moving home, changing, my strangeness and my beliefs. He learnt to appreciate truth and emotion above all, to develop a conscience and good taste.

He is my first joy and my sun, who has shone on my path all these years. And then came Jana, a little torrent of words and laughter who lit up our lives.

Mathematics also led me to the country where dawn breaks first on every morning in the world – Japan. There I met the meditative fullness of everything beautiful, the beauty of nature that resounded deeply within me; that harmony and rhythm that penetrates within from the outside. It is difficult, extremely difficult, to harmonise the external and the internal. Indeed, we all spend our entire lives harmonising our inner music with that outer music of the world. And we suffer a lot. These are some of our persistent endeavours, but I would say that harmony is being in accord with the outside world. I’ve experienced and felt that. And I experienced that in Japan; that I can really be in some kind of harmonious state with everything that surrounds me, with nature and its beauty, with people.

I was touched by their relationship towards the world. A powerful country that’s surrounded on all sides by water, the Japanese are aware that this life could disappear at any moment. A single tsunami or earthquake could destroy everything. Japanese gardens are made in such a way that you feel that life is present right here and right now when you’re in them.

Mathematics also led me to the country where dawn breaks first on every morning in the world – Japan. There I met the meditative fullness of everything beautiful

And the beauty of the world is right there in front of you at that very moment. I tried to feel it. That’s why the beauty of the world is so visible there; that minimalism that actually came from the Japanese, because they looked upon the world in their own way. Minimalism, beauty, harmony, proportions.

They say that you must distinguish everything for yourself. They also say that they need to live truthfully, in harmony with self, step by step. Everything else is a mistake.

My host was mathematics professor Toshiyuki Sugawa. He left space around him in an unusual way, with typical Japanese attention. He lives in Sendai, a quiet seaside city in the north. That’s how I met mathematician Ege Fujikawa, Toshiyuki’s colleague and the only woman with that name in Japan. Her father named her after the Aegean Sea, which fascinated him.

A Japanese girl with a Turkish name. A beautiful little woman with the smile of a child. A lady samurai. She was the cutest being I’ve ever met in my life. Small hands, small feet, eyes that laugh, with little dimples in her cheeks.

Everything that she promises to do comes in a minute. Open, honest, direct. She says what she thinks, not hiding her curiosity. There is no kind of pretentiousness or false modesty. When I hug her she falls into that embrace and doesn’t cross her arms.

A year later, Ege gave birth to a beautiful boy, a small samurai called Saisaku. Two years ago, a little jewel called Marko glistened in our home, enriching all of us, particularly my knight called Luka and my princess Jana.