Strategy for Integration

Strategy for Integration

Any calculus student knows that integration poses a larger challenge than differentiation. Any run-of-the-mill student can find the differentiation formula that makes himself stand out: wear your hair some weird way, listen to some exotic group, or pierce yourself. Similarly, finding the differentiation formula we should apply to find a derivative function presents an obvious task.

In contrast, when a young person like me, who was born in another country (and raised in a third), finds himself washed up on the shores of a strange new land, there is no hard and fast procedure to achieve integration, to fit in, to become one of the crowd. The best thing you can do is to memorize a bunch of integration formulas. Likewise, I had to learn how to socialize in an American way, how to master the cultural quirks, and memorize a bunch of English words. But then I had to apply this knowledge the right way. Similarly, I had to classify the integrand—in this case myself—according to its form. I was ethnically Korean. Should I have classified myself as such? Or did I have to try again, trying substitution, taking on the American identity, hoping that some inspiration or ingenuity would give me the solution?

Look at it this way: I’m trying to determine the vector in my life. I know my initial point, but I have to consider my direction if I am to achieve my final point. Frankly, the integration sometimes looks impossible to solve. I hope I’ll be lucky enough to find the exact form of manipulation, so that integration will suddenly fall intoplace. It’s sometimes tough to make friends when my interests are physics, Chinese movies, and Korean singers. As integration intensifies, as it doubles and it triples, things get more complicated. As I weave myself into the fabric of American life, it’s hard to set the limits, to know when to stop without losing. If you don’t self-limit correctly, your answers fail you.

I know that partial integration makes the solution easier; I only have to concentrate on one variable--my calculus class, for instance. I don’t have to tackle all of the variables of life at the same time. But all of my studies come at a cost: I isolate myself from my American peers. That’s why growing up in the United States presents me with the multivariable integration task in all of its complexity. If I could only focus on getting good grades, all my problems would be solved.

Perhaps the best I can achieve in integration is a mere Taylor’s approximation; I will only be an approximate American, and never achieve the exact solution to the problem of assimilation. Yet my hope is to achieve one of those difficult Laplace transformations. Perhaps I can juggle between the K variable (Korean) and the A variable (American) and transform myself into a unique synthesis of K and A.