One plus one equals two. From our best calculations this simple formula has been true for about thirteen and a half billion years, when a one-plus-one-equals-x universe decided on an answer. The concept was a bulletin of pure energy, a new universal order, the biggest of bangs, and a phase transition. It rippled into new dimensions and trapped little whirlpools of spacetime into plank-length sized points — perpetual motion machines that burst into existence in perfect repetition. An infinity of little pieces ignited by a simple idea that there was no longer a whole. A framework of things defined by finite points on an infinite map; a matrix in time and space with knowable distances. Sequence gave us the timeline, beads on a necklace, or video on tape; it just kept rolling. Order of operations unfolded like origami, revealing the knowable.

A history and a quote: “From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, 1+1=2.” It took a thousand pages and almost all of history to write down what feels so fundamental. Principia Mathematica, by Whitehead and Russell published in three volumes attempted not only to prove the more obvious axioms, but to create a new notation using a set of figures, a complicated language called “propositions”. Clunky, bizarre, and an obtuse code. The authors later attempted to create a volume four but abandoned it due to reported intellectual exhaustion.

One represents the identical, the thing which is fundamental and cannot be changed. A measurement which is repeatable. An inch, a minute, exactly a pound. Conceptually, it can represent anything — informally an evening, a train ride, a lifetime. A million singles pennies or a beach worth of grains of sand; the number of stars in the milky way — multiplied, divided, or added to themselves. A first kiss, a second, and a third, each one memory categorized and longed after by a tender mind. One represents the whole, the finite, the genus, the sprawling web of enormous filaments woven together by gravity, their size unknowable and unseeable at once. It represents the microscopic, the Petri dish; the atom, the proton, the quark, the wave, and the string. One can be sliced in half an infinite number of times, until the impossible last cut leaves us with one.

Plus is the glue, an ampersand, or a cross-stitch. It juxtaposes and combines. A preposition, it places next to, or above, or below, or at a later time. It almost always replaces. It binds the dimensional, the X, the Y, the Z. It sows the tapestry. With every second, it unwinds the clock and makes the train run on time. It fastens into securely and arranges just so. It grows from the center and spills into the street, down the drains and through the pipes — seeping out into the ocean. It expands the balloon with warm and wet breath. Blown, perhaps, until it pops. It procreates and multiples, it super-sizes, it makes numerous. It levels up, gives a little extra, and fills the tank.

Equal is the final judgement. It’s the deposition, the verdict, the arraignment, and the sentence. It’s the weight of things — all things being equal. It takes the knotted and tangled mass and pulls the string. What’s on either side is the equation; two expressions of the inexpressible. An ocean now the total of the waves across it or its H20. What was, what is, and what it will become — all the same on both sides of the sign. Sum is the answer, it shows that the different are the same. A message encoded, then decoded. It is the thing we have longed for, the broken howl of the disenfranchised, the force that drives us out and on to the streets, and into the moment, because we know that we are. Equal is the equalizer, the final truth, and the quantity, size, and degree; all the same.

Logic soon followed, making each argument more logical. But the greats who founded it, the genius and gifted, those who explored its frameworks, learned its rules and expressions, and finally accepted: incomplete. Eventually they lost their minds. Set theory with its sets of sets explained order, got to infinity, and defined nothing except empty sets. They set the table, the stage, and the possibly that {one, one} makes something new. Then came the digital, blips on a wire, until a symphony filled the empty room. We had fidelity, resolution, and dealt in the identical.

And finally, two: the duality. The answer and the proof. Shorthand for identical things. The truth and its stunt double. Only in a reality where repetition rules could we call it by its name. Two is company, it’s peas in a pod, and the loneliest number since the number one. It is even, steady and strong. Side by side. Two is divisible and is prime. It makes a family and is a requirement for love; together forever. It’s one and one at the same time, in the same space, the everything all at once or twice. Beyond is the repeatable, the exponential, forever on.

All this repetition we take as fundamental. Twins of twins, so on and forever. The making of a snowflake, it adds up to something that is never the same. With enough time, repetition overcrowds. It makes the limits impossible, relativity true, and reality real. The equation defines the reason and works perfectly when those measurements are exact. And here is the curiosity: the repetition, the numbers, and the conceptual equation, without it we collapse. The emptiest of nights or the brightest of whites, whichever you prefer. A return to the undefined, in which one plus one equals zero or infinity or anything in-between.