Maxwell said: There is no more powerful way
to introduce knowledge to the mind than … as many different
ways as we can, wrenching the mind

from the symbols to the objects and from the objects
back to the symbols.

Maxwell said: I have been striving all my life to be free
of the yoke of Cartesian co-ordinates. I found
such an instrument in

quaternions. Do I need quaternions
to talk about light?

the square of quaternions
is negative. But Gibbs’s vectors, uncouth
seemingly, work

well, in any dimension, with a very
great capability for
interpreting space relations.

Rukeyser said: Critical minds
that approach the world with love
have but one possible

defense—to build a system.
Rayleigh said, I protest
the compression.

Gibbs: I myself concluded
that the paper was
too long.


Stephanie Strickland‘s “Striving All My Life” was first published in The Kenyon Review in 1995, then later in her collection True North (1997), available for purchase through the University of Notre Dame Press.