Decision Tree

This poem originally appeared in College Math Journal under the title "Tree Diagram". I was asked to reformat it for inclusion into a thematic literacy issue in the journal "Symmetry: Culture and Science". This is the new format: a tree!

There's a structure placed on the poem that creates an unusual result. The first line is the question, the second the decision, the third the reaction, and the fourth the future effect. There is then an angel-devil influence in the directions of the lines; movement to the left is leaning towards the 'good' and towards the right is leaning towards the 'bad'. What I found surprising is that many of the poem sequences in this tree are kind of depressing ("... now the chance has slipped away, I guess I'm doomed to live this way.") but there are two sequences that are special.

In the extreme left and the extreme right sides of the tree you can find two poems where you get the feeling the narrator feels good about his/her choices and is satisfied with the way life is going. While this may not make any flattering statements about morality, I think it does say something about consistency. In life, as in mathematics, we are free to choose which rules we will live by. Once you've done so, you should be consistent with these rules or you run the risk of being dissatisfied.

Can we really learn that from mathematics?